The PDCA Cycle (30+ Plan Do Check Act Examples)

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Practical Psychology

In today's busy world, everyone is looking for simple ways to do things better and faster. Enter the PDCA cycle. It's like a four-step dance for making things work smoothly.

The PDCA cycle is an improvement cycle that involves four steps: Plan, Do, Check, and Act, to help improve any business process or task.

If you want to make your work more organized or solve problems more efficiently, the PDCA cycle can be your go-to tool.

Introduction to the PDCA Cycle


The PDCA cycle is a tool that helps with project planning. It breaks down a process into manageable steps, helps you test them, and adjust to get better results.

The cyclical nature of PDCA is a simple guide to help groups and companies work better and keep improving.

It's not just a one-time thing. This PDCA model is like a circle that keeps going, helping you learn and grow. By going through the steps again and again, you can stay up to date and keep making things better.

Even though it started in factories with quality control, the PDCA cycle is now used everywhere—in hospitals, schools, tech companies, and even for personal goals. It's easy to use, and you don't need special training or tools. You just need to be ready to try new things and keep improving.

Brief History of PDCA

The origins of the PDCA cycle trace back to the early 20th century. A man named Walter Shewhart, often called the 'father of statistical quality control,' introduced the idea.

Shewhart was working in the world of manufacturing, seeking ways to make production more efficient and error-free. Remember, this was a time when factories were booming, and any way to save time or reduce mistakes was super important.

Building on Shewhart's thoughts, Dr. W. Edwards Deming further used the plan do check act cycle for something new in the mid-1900s.

Deming's work specifically dealt with rebuilding Japan's industry after World War II. He realized that for industries to succeed, they needed a simple and strong framework. And he favored the PDCA cycle as a means of problem solving and continuous improvement.

It's because of these two people who helped create the process that it's sometimes called the Deming Cycle, Deming Wheel, or Shewhart Cycle.

So, why should you care about this history? Because understanding where the PDCA cycle came from helps in appreciating its value. It's not just a trendy buzzword; it's a tested and proven method that's been helping businesses for almost a century.

4 Steps of the Plan Do Check Act Cycle

Simply put, the four stages or steps are: Plan, Do, Check, Act. In a way, this is project management plan that not only improves management practices but also eliminates ineffective elements.

1. Plan

This is the planning stage—the time you think and plan. You find a problem or a chance to do something and decide what you want to achieve. Basically, you set up project goals and potential solutions to business problems.

2. Do

Now, it's action time. Do the plan you laid out in the previous stage. But don't just rush in! It's important to do this on a smaller scale first, like a pilot test. Consider it a 'trial run'. This way, you get to see how things work without fully committing.

3. Check

After you've taken action, you pause and assess. You're looking back at the results of your 'Do' phase. Did it go as planned? Were there unforeseen hiccups? This is your moment of reflection. Remember, there are problably multiple solutions to any problem, so if this plan didn't work, you can try a new one.

Sometimes this method is called plan do study act, instead of plan do check act. So you can think of this as the time to study the data.

4. Act

After looking at the results from the 'Check' step, you make changes. If things worked, you can do more of it. If not, you fix and improve. After making changes, you start the cycle again with 'Plan'.

In essence, the PDCA cycle is an ongoing journey of improvement. It's all about learning, repeating, and progressing.

The Importance of Continuous Improvement

woman on a treadmill

The heart of the PDCA cycle lies in the principle of continuous improvement. In today's ever-evolving world, standing still is not an option. You either move forward, or you risk falling behind.

Continuous improvement isn't about chasing perfection. It's about the journey of getting better every day. It’s acknowledging that no matter how good a process or product is, there's always room to do better.

Here’s why it is crucial to continuously improve:

1. Adapting to Change: Just like seasons change, so do markets, customer preferences, and technologies. By continuously improving, you ensure that you're not left behind.

2. Efficiency and Productivity: Improving business processes means eliminating wastes and unnecessary steps. This results in faster outputs with fewer resources.

3. Employee Satisfaction: Believe it or not, people like being part of a system that gets better. It boosts morale and engagement. When employees see their feedback being used to make positive changes, they feel valued and involved.

4. Customer Satisfaction: Continuously improved products or services translate to happier customers. By showing that you’re committed to betterment, you not only keep loyal customers but also attract new ones.

5. Long-Term Success: Think of continuous improvement as investing in the future. Small enhancements today can lead to significant benefits in the long run.

Use-Cases of the PDCA Cycle

Let's shift our gaze from the theory of PDCA to its real-world applications. The plan do check act cycle is not limited to big businesses or specific industries; it can be used by anyone who wants to continuously improve processes.


In hospitals, patient care is the most important. By using the PDCA cycle, hospitals can make patient admissions easier, improve treatment plans, and perform better after-care procedures.

For example, if a hospital notices long wait times in the emergency room, they can Plan a strategy to make it better, Do a trial run with the new system, Check the results, and then Act to put the plan into place everywhere or change it based on the feedback from the trial run.


Schools and colleges are always looking for ways to improve student learning and involvement. The PDCA cycle can help with curriculum design, classroom management, or even in creating better ways for students to give feedback.

A school might notice students struggling with online learning. They can then make a plan to offer additional resources, test it out with a group, assess the results, and change accordingly.

Tech Startups

In the tech world, you need to keep up with changes. Startups can use the PDCA cycle to make better products, improve user experience, or market better.

Think of a new app with problems after it's launched. The company can make a plan to solve it, try the fix, see what users say, and then improve it for the desired outcome.

Personal Goal Setting

Beyond organizations, individuals can use the PDCA cycle for personal development. Whether it's fitness goals, learning a new skill, or financial planning, this cycle can be a guide.

Suppose you set a goal to read more books. You plan by setting aside time each day, try it out for a week, check if you're consistent, and then adjust based on challenges or insights.


PDCA started in factories, and they can gain a lot from it. It can help improve products and make production faster.

If a factory finds more faulty products, they can use the PDCA cycle to find the problem, try fixes, see what works, and then use the best solution regularly.

Starting Your Own PDCA Cycle: Step-by-Step Guide

tech startup running analytics

Let's walk through how you can start your own PDCA journey.

1. Identify a Challenge or Opportunity: Every journey begins with a destination in mind. Look for an area in your organization, project, or personal life that needs improvement or has potential for growth. It could be as simple as improving morning routines or as complex as recreating a product line.

2. Gather Data: Arm yourself with information. Understanding the current situation helps in setting realistic goals. If sales have dropped in your business, get numbers. How much? Since when? Any patterns?

3. Set Clear Objectives: Define what success looks like. If you're addressing the sales drop, decide on a target percentage increase. Be specific. Instead of saying "increase sales," aim for "increase sales by 10% in the next quarter."

4. Brainstorm Solutions: Think of strategies to meet your objective. If it's about sales, maybe you need better marketing, more training for the sales team, or even a new product feature.

5. Pilot Test: Remember the importance of the 'Do' phase being a trial run? Implement your solution, but start small. This reduces risks. Using our sales example, maybe first train a small sales team with a new technique and see how it works.

6. Evaluate Results: Once your pilot is done, check the outcomes. Did sales improve for the team that received new training? By how much? Were there any challenges?

7. Implement or Adjust: Based on your evaluation, take action and implement change yourself. If the new sales training worked well, roll it out for everyone. If not, revisit your strategies, adjust, and test again. This is the act phase.

8. Document Everything: Keep a record of your entire PDCA process. This not only helps in future cycles but also creates a way for your team to look at what worked, what didn't, and make incremental changes in their process improvement.

9. Loop Back: The PDCA cycle isn’t a one-time thing. After 'Act', circle back to 'Plan'. Maybe after addressing sales, the next cycle focuses on having your customers came back again and again.

10. Celebrate and Reflect: Lastly, every time you complete a cycle, take a moment to acknowledge the progress. Celebrate wins, no matter how small. And always reflect on lessons learned for future cycles.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The Shewhart cycle is an iterative process. In other words, it's a continuous process improvement.

But, just as a juggler learns best from dropped balls, understanding common mistakes in the PDCA cycle can prepare you to avoid or address them before they happen.

1. Skipping the Planning Phase: In eagerness to act, it's tempting to jump straight into action. But remember, a house built on shaky foundation won't stand for long.

Strategy: Always invest time in thorough planning. This phase sets the tone for the entire cycle.

2. Ignoring Data: Operating on gut feelings or assumptions can lead you down the wrong path. The PDCA cycle relies on data-driven decisions.

Strategy: Consistently gather relevant information. Then analyze it. Let numbers guide your actions.

3. Setting Vague Objectives: Broad goals like "improve customer service" lack direction. Instead, be specific in your initial plan.

Strategy: Always aim for SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) objectives. Instead of "improve customer service," aim for "reduce customer complaints by 15% in the next two months."

4. Neglecting the 'Check' Phase: It's easy to move from action to adjustments without pausing. But without assessment, you might miss valuable insights.

Think of it like the scientific method, where you have a controlled environment and by looking at the success criteria you can make sure you avoid recurring mistakes.

Strategy: Always allocate time to evaluate results. It's this reflection that powers informed adjustments.

5. Resisting Change: Sometimes, looking at the data will show a need for significant changes. Resistance can slow or stop progress.

Strategy: Cultivate a growth mindset. Embrace changes as opportunities to learn and grow.

6. Stopping After One Cycle: Viewing the PDCA cycle as a one-off can limit its benefits. Remember, it's about continuous improvement.

Strategy: Always loop back. Each cycle offers a chance to refine further.

7. Working in Silos: Keeping the PDCA process in only one department or individual can limit its scope and effectiveness.

Strategy: Promote collaboration. Encourage cross-departmental input and feedback.

8. Fearing Failures: Not every cycle will lead to positive results. Fear of failures can slow innovation and risk-taking.

Strategy: Reframe failures as learning opportunities. Every setback is a setup for a better comeback.

9. Neglecting Documentation: Forgetting to record your processes and outcomes can lead to repeated mistakes.

Strategy: Maintain a detailed log of every PDCA cycle. This becomes a reference point for the next stage.

10. Overcomplicating the Process: The PDCA cycle is inherently simple. Overloading it with complexities can reduce its effectiveness.

Strategy: Stick to the basics. Keep the cycle streamlined and straightforward.

Pros and Cons of the PDCA Cycle

While the PDCA cycle has many benefits, it's important to be aware of its limitations too. Let's weigh both sides of this coin to give you an more rounded view.

Pros of the PDCA Cycle

1. Simplicity: At its core, the PDCA cycle is a straightforward four-step process. This makes it easy to understand, adopt, and communicate across teams.

2. Versatility: Whether it's a multinational corporation or your personal fitness goal, the PDCA cycle can be applied anywhere. Its universality is one of its strongest points.

3. Data-Driven: By relying on data and evaluations, the PDCA cycle reduces guesswork and ensures decisions are supported by hard evidence.

4. Continuous Improvement: The continuous loop promotes regular refinement, ensuring that internal and external processes and strategies are always evolving and improving.

5. Risk Mitigation: By emphasizing small-scale testing in the 'Do' phase, the PDCA cycle helps to identify potential issues or ineffective elements early on, reducing the chances of large-scale failures.

6. Empowers Teams: Since it's a collaborative work process, the PDCA cycle encourages team input and feedback, leading to more inclusive and holistic solutions.

Cons of the PDCA Cycle

1. Time-Consuming: Especially during the initial phases, the PDCA cycle can be time-intensive as teams gather data, plan, and test.

2. Potential for Overanalysis: The 'Check' phase, if not kept in check, can lead to "paralysis by analysis," where teams get too caught up in evaluating data and delay actionable steps.

3. Dependency on Data: While being data-driven is a strength, it can also be a limitation if there's a lack of quality data. Poor data can lead to bad decisions.

4. Requires Commitment: For the PDCA cycle to be effective, it requires consistent commitment from the team. Occasional or half-hearted attempts might not yield good results.

5. Scope for Subjectivity: While the process is data-driven, interpretations of the data can be subjective, leading to potential biases in decisions.

Real-Life Examples of the PDCA in Action

hospital patient

Stories have a way of making concepts stick. With strategic planning, people can reduce costs, have quality improvement, and progress regularly.

Let's step into the real world and explore some stories that show the PDCA cycle making a noticeable difference.

1. A Coffee Shop's Quest for the Perfect Brew: A local coffee shop noticed a dip in their morning sales. Using the PDCA approach, they planned a way for customers to tell them what they want. They then introduced new coffee blends on a trial basis.

After assessing customer feedback and sales data, they found that introducing cold brews and specialty lattes was a hit. The shop adjusted its menu, retrained its baristas, and saw a 20% rise in sales the following month.

2. School Attendance Improvement: A school was finding that students were absent a lot. The management planned a survey to understand the reasons. From the feedback, they introduced a mentorship program and more engaging extra-curricular activities.

After testing these out for a semester, there was a noticeable increase in student attendance. The school then acted by making these changes permanent and continued to monitor attendance rates for further improvements.

3. Tech Firm's Bug Battle: A tech startup's app had a lot of bugs after a major update. The team planned a way for users to report issues. They then put out smaller patches to address the most common problems.

Checking user reviews and bug reports, they realized the need for a more in-depth testing phase before updates. Acting on this, they changed their testing protocols, leading to more stable updates in the future.

4. Personal Fitness Journey: Mike wanted to get in shape. He planned a workout routine and a diet. For the first two weeks, he tested a mix of cardio and weights.

Checking his progress, he realized he enjoyed weight training more and saw better results with it. He then acted by focusing more on strength training and adjusting his diet to support muscle growth. By the full end to end process of three months, Mike had lost 15 pounds and increased his muscle mass.

5. Hospital's Patient Care Boost: A city hospital wanted to make it so patients could leave sooner after treatment. They planned by gathering data on current discharge processes.

They tried to improve processes by bringing a digital system to one department. Using this system, they found that paperwork was processed faster meaning patients could leave sooner. The hospital acted by implementing the digital system hospital-wide.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is the PDCA cycle?
The PDCA cycle is a four-step method used to improve processes and systems. The steps are Plan, Do, Check, and Act.

2. Where did the PDCA cycle originate?
The PDCA cycle has its roots in the early 20th century, introduced by Walter Shewhart and further refined by Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

3. Can the PDCA cycle be used outside of manufacturing?
Yes, while it started in manufacturing, today the PDCA cycle is used in various sectors like healthcare, education, tech startups, and even for personal goals.

4. Why is the 'Check' phase crucial in the PDCA cycle?
The 'Check' phase involves assessing results. It's essential for understanding what's working and what needs adjustment, ensuring the cycle's effectiveness.

5. What are the main benefits of the PDCA cycle?
The PDCA cycle promotes continuous improvement, risk mitigation, data-driven decisions, and inclusivity in feedback and solutions.

6. Are there any common mistakes to avoid when implementing PDCA?
Yes, some common mistakes include skipping the planning phase, setting vague objectives, and neglecting the 'Check' phase. It's crucial to be aware of these to make the most of the PDCA cycle.

7. How can I start implementing the PDCA cycle in my organization or personal life?
Begin by identifying a challenge or opportunity. Gather data, set clear objectives, and then proceed through the Plan, Do, Check, and Act steps. Remember, it's a continuous cycle, so always loop back to the planning phase after acting.

8. Are there any real-life examples of the PDCA cycle in action?
Absolutely! From coffee shops refining their brews to tech startups improving apps based on user feedback, the PDCA cycle has been effectively implemented in various scenarios.

9. How does the PDCA cycle encourage continuous improvement?
By its very design, the PDCA cycle promotes revisiting and refining processes. By constantly looping back to the planning phase, it ensures that operations are always evolving based on feedback and results.


We've traveled quite a bit through the world of PDCA, haven't we? From its history to how it works and where it's used, we've covered a lot of ground. Now, let's wrap up what we've learned.

The PDCA cycle is like a step-by-step guide for making things better. Think of it as a map that helps you find better ways to do things. Each step, from planning to acting, helps you get better and learn from any mistakes.

In today's world, things change a lot and fast. That's why having a way to keep improving is super important. The PDCA cycle helps you do just that.

Whether you're in charge of a big company, a small team, or just trying to reach your own goals, the PDCA cycle can help.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, October). The PDCA Cycle (30+ Plan Do Check Act Examples). Retrieved from

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