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:
- Plan. Study the current process to determine where it is failing and how it can be improved.
- Do. Enact change, preferably on a small scale.
- Check. Measure the outcome of the implemented change.
- 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.