Haris Ahmed from Chicago Talks About the Deming Change Management Cycle
As the head of Pragmatium Consulting Group, Inc. Haris Ahmed has his Chicago-based boutique management consultancy, which emphasizes continuous change and organizational development. Haris has been a change management consultant for as long as he could remember. He has worked with start-ups and Fortune 500 companies, advising them on the finer points of embracing change and using it to establish competitive advantage. Today, he discusses one of the most widely-recognized models of change management, the Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act.
W. Edwards Deming has always been one of my personal heroes. His vision and ideas have inspired not just organizations, but also entire countries. Japan, for instance, was influenced by his philosophy, which stresses the importance of continuous improvement, uniformity, and the quest for new markets.
One of Deming’s ideas, the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, is a four-step model used by businesses for both continuous improvement of products and organizational change, and has heavily influenced Lean improvement methodology. The PDCA cycle has four steps: Planning, Doing, Checking, and Acting. I will discuss each step in further detail below.
PLANNING. In a change-driven organization, planning involves the naming and establishment of existing baselines, new or improved processes, and end goals. While an expected output is established, of equal importance is the specifications for the processes that will be created or altered. When planning a large-scale change, the best organizations almost always start small to allow for observation and tweaking.
DOING. This involves the implementation of the plan, such as process execution or product development. This also includes the collection of data to be analyzed later in the cycle. Data collection, in the eyes of W. Edwards Deming, is just as important as the execution of the plan itself.
CHECKING. This involves studying the results of the “DOING” phase and comparing them with the existing baselines and expected outcome as specified in the “PLANNING” phase. Are there any deviations in terms of process and output? If so, what are the effects of these deviations on the product or organization? Collecting data from multiple small-scale change implementations will give organizations a large bank of historical data from which they could determine trends and other kinds of information.
ACTING. Does the “CHECKING” phase show that the new current state of the product or organization is an improvement over the baseline? If so, the team or organization should adopt the same actions and standards moving forward. However, if the “CHECKING” phase shows that the results are the same or have even regressed, it might be a good idea to retain the process as it is. Contrary to many people’s interpretation of the Deming PDCA model, the “ACTING” phase is not the time to come up with a new plan or solution. Instead, another PDCA cycle is needed to determine and implement the next steps.
The PDCA model draws heavily from scientific tradition. In fact, the first three phases can be considered analogous to the hypothesis, experiment, and evaluation. Like scientific studies, the PDCA is heavily iterative; that is, each new cycle will add to the organization’s body of knowledge.