Saturday, February 28, 2009

PDCA (Plan - Do - Check - Action) Management (Macro and Micro)

Do companies really see the importance of those (4) letters in the alphabet when it comes to doing business effectively and efficiently? The PDCA cycle is (4) simple letters but a powerful management tool when understood by a company as a way to do business. Dr. W. Edwards Deming was responsible for creating this "way to manage/think" and introduced it to the Japanese in the 1950's when Ford Motor Co., didn't seem to be too interested at that time to embrace the concept. The original process was actually PDSA, the "S" standing for "Study"...Plan-Do-Study-Act. When the Japanese embraced this management tool they changed the "S" to a "C" to create the "Check".

When I teach this "way to manage" process I also introduce the terms "MACRO" PDCA and "MICRO" PDCA... because I think its very important to company's and their employees to understand all the dynamics in this management process, some like to also refer to it as "small scale" or "large scale" PDCA, it all means the same in the eyes of the company as long as the employees are thinking through their daily work which should support the company's business goals.
A company's first step in implementing the PDCA management system is to understand what is happening within each step of the process. Proper planning is an essential element for successful implementation. Within the Japanese culture, in general, when they are given a year long project for example, they will immediately "plan" for 9 months of that year and implement for 3 months. On the other hand, some traditional cultures (like us Americans at times), could be given the same project and we would plan for 3 months and have a frustrating implementation for 9 months because we tend to jump to the answers(the how) first instead of the problem first (the what).
A company must understand "Why" and "What" they want to accomplish each year, set company business indicators to measure those accomplishments monthly, share those indicators with employees, and give the employees the resources and opportunities to solve daily issues which contribute to the overall business goals. This goes back to my first post in having a "line of sight". This concept is in essence what I'm referring to as MACRO PDCA (business level planning as a company) and MICRO PDCA (employees solving daily problems supporting the business goals). This visual can show the micro PDCA activities supporting the business. This I believe is a key factor in creating a culture driven towards continuous improvement.

Til next time,
Tracey Richardson

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