Deming or PDCA Cycle – Definition

Cite this article as:"Deming or PDCA Cycle – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated November 22, 2018, last accessed October 29, 2020,


Deming Cycle or PDCA Cycle Definition

Deming cycle is a four-step strategy for solving problems and improving business processes. It is an interactive process involving Plan-Do-Check-Act. It is also called the PDCA cycle.

A Little More About the Deming or PDCA Cycle

The four steps involved in PDCA cycle are:

  • Plan: In the planning phase, one needs to chalk out a precise plan to achieve the desired goal. In order to do this effectively, one needs to examine a current plan or a new plan and find ways to improve it. A good plan has a definite goal for the project with a clear pathway to achieve it. The organization’s goal and principles are to be considered thoroughly while making the plan.
  • Do: It is the time to carry out the plan in a proper manner. It is always helpful to start small in scale to easily assess the output. In this phase it is important for the players to adhere to the plan; otherwise, the whole exercise could become futile. This phase has three steps:
    • training of the people involved in the project,
    • doing the work, and
    • gathering the data and results for evaluation.
  • Check: In this phase, data and results from the do phase are analyzed. Similarities and differences with the desired result are examined. It is also helpful to understand which changes will be effective and how to make those improvements. Ideally, during a project cycle, two rounds of checks should be done.
    • The first time while the plan is being implemented to ensure the objectives are being taken care of.
    • A second round of checks should be done after completing the implementation phase. It is needed to get a comprehensive picture using all the data and outputs. It also determines the achievements and failures and helps in understanding the shortcomings.
  • Act: It is the final phase where the gaps are addressed. Corrective actions are taken, and adjustments are made to close the gap between the desired goal and the achieved result.
    Organizations often repeat the cycle and make it a part of their regular operations to optimize the result. It enables a company to achieve an improved business procedure with minimum error.

Some History of the Deming Cycle

During the 1920s, American physicist Walter A. Shewhart first came up with this model drawing inspiration from management practices. The way that management continuously evaluates the works inspired him to devise this model. Later quality control pioneer Dr. W Edwards Deming popularized it. He was the first one to identify it as an effective model to improve production processes in America during the second world war. Deeming named it after Shewhart, though in later years it became popularized as the Deeming cycle.

Many managers use this model without even realizing, as it involves the basics of strategic planning. It is a very effective way to improve the performance of the company, enhance the quality of the products, optimize the cost structure, and ensure customer satisfaction.

Academic Research on Deming Cycle – PDCA

Evolution of the PDCA cycle, Moen, R., & Norman, C. (2006). This article gives a history of the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle (PDCA) popularized by Edward Deming. This work offers a deeper look at the PDCA cycle and compares Deming and Schewart’s cycle to previous systems.

The benefits fo PDCA, Johnson, C. N. (2002). Quality Progress, 35(5), 120. This article offers a simple analysis of the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle (PDCA). By applying this system to everyday situations, the process and benefits of the PDCA are easy to understand.

Foundation and History of the PDSA Cycle, Moen, R. (2009, September). In Asian Network for Quality Conference (Vol. 15, p. 18). This paper offers a clarification of Edward Deming’s PDSA Cycle. The author offers a brief history of the evolution of this cycle, and compares it to other comparable systems. The author also build’s a personal history with Edward Deming to illustrate and contrast the relationship between the PDSA and the PDCA cycle.

Maximizing knowledge work productivity: a time constrained and activity visualized PDCA cycle, Maruta, R. (2012). Knowledge and process Management, 19(4), 203-214. This paper offers a modification of the traditionally group-oriented PDCA Cycle to improve the productivity of an individual employee. The PDCA cycle is applied to an accounts receivable system to push works for objective achievement as well as giving their superiors a path to improved training. The lessons here are designed to be broadly applicable in a variety of situations.

Beyond PDCA-A new process management model, Gupta, P. (2006). Quality progress, 39(7), 45. The author suggests that the “check” function in the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle may be unnecessary when it’s applied in an ISO 9001 situation. Following a review of top-name efficiency and work-process leaders, the author offers a new cycle for process management known as the 4P’s (Prepare, Perform, Perfect, Progress).

A theory of quality management underlying the Deming management method, Anderson, J. C., Rungtusanatham, M., & Schroeder, R. G. (1994). Academy of management Review, 19(3), 472-509. This paper offers an in-depth analysis of the underpinnings of the Deming Management Method. Various studies, organizational observations, and an analysis of Deming’s personal writings are used to get at the heart of the style of management embodied by Deming’s method. Recommendations for further research based on their implications are offered.

Supporting empowerment with Deming′ s PDSA cycle, Cleary, B. A. (1995). Empowerment in Organizations, 3(2), 34-39. This offers a hands-on illustration of the PDSA cycle. This famous improvement process is applied in a case study involving a telephone callback system. The real-life examples show how this cycle can build a team’s problem-solving confidence as they work together to improve their organization and working environment.

SPC, process improvement, and the Deming PDCA circle in freight administration, Benneyan, J. C., & Chute, A. D. (1993). Production and Inventory Management Journal, 34(1), 35. This article reports the results that were achieved when Digital Equipment Corporation implemented a mix of total quality management (TQM), continuous improvement, data analysis, statistical process control (SPC) and Deming’s PDCA circle to their freight management processes. The efforts, detailed in this article, have resulted in improvements that are estimated to exceed one million dollars annually.

Preliminary experience of a PDCAcycle and quality management based training curriculum for rat liver transplantation, Jin, H., Huang, H., Dong, W., Sun, J., Liu, A., Deng, M., … & Dahmen, U. (2012). Journal of Surgical Research, 176(2), 409-422. This paper outlines the methodology, application, and results of applying a PDCA-style system to the training of microsurgery trainees. The study shows a marked skills improvement when PDCA cycles and quality criteria were employed to control the learning-process and the surgical quality.

Framework of Strategic Learning: The PDCA Cycle., Pietrzak, M., & Paliszkiewicz, J. (2015). Management (18544223), 10(2). This paper recognizes the importance of organizational learning as part of the strategic planning process. To that end, the author suggests that a PDCA cycle should be employed as a framework to support that continual loop of learning.

Total quality management and the Deming approach to quality management, Petersen, P. B. (1999). Journal of management History, 5(8), 468-488. This paper compares and contrasts total quality management (TQM) with W. Edwards Deming’s views on quality management. Deming’s work on the subject of management strategy and effectiveness is directly applicable to many of the successful and unsuccessful attempts to apply TQM in the 1980s and 1990s.

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