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Deming estimated that 85% of problems in an organization were caused by inadequate processes and only 15% caused by operator

error. Therefore, it simply makes sense that corrective action is taken on the process first unless you are absolutely sure that your problem was caused by operator error. Despite this statistic, too many individuals choose what seems to be the easy way to "eliminate" a problem by talking to the operator about the problem. Yes, you will probably see short-term improvement using this method, but it is very likely that your problem will return. So how do you prevent this from happening within your organization? You guessed it... proper use of the Deming Cycle. What we've learned over the years is that many have oversimplified the use of this tool. I wish I could tell you it's as simple as Plan- Do- Study- Act, or PDSA, but I can't honestly do that. A poorly executed plan will lead to horrible results. A poorly identified problem will lead to an incorrect solution. These will, in every instance, lead to poor data to analyze, and leave you wondering what to do to make the problem go away. You could just as easily chosen operator error or fire fighting and gotten the same poor result. What we've done is to take apart the PDSA cycle and break it down into simple and effective problem solving steps

The Deming Cycle By Paul Arveson W. Edwards Deming in the 1950's proposed that business processes should be analyzed and measured to identify sources of variations that cause products to deviate from customer requirements. He recommended that business processes be placed in a continuous feedback loop so that managers can identify and change the parts of the process that need improvements. As a teacher, Deming created a (rather oversimplified) diagram to illustrate this continuous process, commonly known as the PDCA cycle for Plan, Do, Check, Act*:

PLAN: Design or revise business process components to improve results DO: Implement the plan and measure its performance CHECK: Assess the measurements and report the results to decision makers ACT: Decide on changes needed to improve the process

The above picture shows how the Deming Cycle operates. The Plan stage is where it all begins. Prior to implementing a change you must understand both the nature of your

current problem and how your process failed to meet a customer requirement. You and/or your problem solving team determine: Which process needs improved How much improvement is required The change to be implemented When the change is to be implemented How you plan to measure the effect of the change What will be affected by this change (documents, procedures, etc.). Once you have this plan, its time to move to the DO stage.

The Do stage is the implementation of the change. Identify the people affected by the change and inform them that youre adapting their process due to customer complaints, multiple failures, continual improvement opportunity, whatever the reason, it is important to let them know about the change. Youll need their buy-in to help ensure the effectiveness of the change. Then implement the change, including the measurements youll need in the Study stage. Monitor the change after implementation to make sure no backsliding occurs. You wouldnt want people to return to the old methods of operation- those methods were causing your company pain to begin with!

Just as it implies, the Study stage is where youll perform analysis of the data you collected during the Do stage. Considerations include: Did the process improve? By how much? Did we meet the objective for the improvement? Was the process more difficult to use with the new methods? Get a FREE action plan template just for subscribing to our newsletter!

The answers from the Study stage define your tasks for the Act stage. For example, if the process didnt improve, theres no point in asking additional questions during the Study stage. But action can be taken- action must be taken! The problem hasnt been solved. The action youd take is to eliminate the change you implemented in the Do stage and return to the Plan stage to consider new options to implement. If the process did improve, youd want to know if there was enou gh improvement. More simply, if the improvement was to speed up the process, is the process now fast enough

to meet requirements? If not, consider additional methods to tweak the process so that you do meet improvement objectives. Again, youre back at the Plan stage of the Deming Cycle. Suppose you met the improvement objectives. Interview the process owner and some process participants to determine their thoughts regarding the change you implemented. They are your immediate customer. You want their feedback. If you didnt make the process harder (read more costly or time consuming) your action in this case would be to standardize your improvement by changing any required documentation and conduct training regarding the change. Keep in mind that sometimes you will make the process more time consuming. But if the savings from the change more than offset the additional cost, youre likely to have implemented an appropriate change

Revisiting the Improvement

Thats right youre not done yet. You want to Sustain the Gain. Know that the change is still in place, and still effective. A review of the process and measure should give you this information. Watch the process to view for yourself that the process operators are performing the process using the improvements youve implemented. Analyze the metrics to ensure effectiveness of your Deming Cycle improvements.