Plan-do-check-act cycle

The plan-do-check-act cycle describes the process of continuous improvement needed to enact change. It is particularly useful when applied to high-volume processes, since even small changes to these processes can translate into substantial gains for an organization. The cycle involves a series of steps, which are followed iteratively to ensure that change is reinforced over time. The steps are as follows:

  1. Plan. Study the current process to determine where it is failing and how it can be improved.
  2. Do. Enact change, preferably on a small scale.
  3. Check. Measure the outcome of the implemented change.
  4. Act. If the measured result represents an improvement, go ahead and implement the change across the organization. If the check stage resulted in a failure, then go back and try a different improvement plan.

The lessons learned from each iteration of the cycle are incorporated into the next iteration, so that the process improves over time.

The plan-do-check-act cycle was developed by William Edwards Deming in the 1950s.