Lean Management Tools

Learn QHSE / Quality Management / Plan-Do-Check-Act


This lean management tool was created by Dr William Edwards Deming as a way to identify what caused products to fail to meet customers’ expectations.  This tool is useful in helping businesses develop theories about what needs to change, then following the continuous feedback loop in order to do this. It is a very simple framework but is effective in establishing a continually improving organisation.

The steps can be seen below:



1. Plan

The first stage of this model is identifying and understanding the problem at hand or the opportunity you want to grab.  Once the problem or opportunity has been identified, as the name suggests, you will need to plan what you are going to do.  During this step, the scope will need to be identified, which will cover which part of the organisation will be affected by this plan.  Targets will also need to be set. It is important that there’s are clear and quantitative in order to see if they have been met.  It may be useful to use SMART goals when setting targets in order to ensure they are detailed enough.  When setting these goals, you may need to ask yourself questions such as;

  • What are we trying to achieve by doing this?
  • How will this benefit our workers or customers?
  • Out of all of these solutions, which one is the best?

The plan stage is one of the most important stages of this tool, as it will set out a road map of what is going to be done and why. It will help in ensuring everyone involved with this change is on the same page and knows the importance of it.


2. Do 

This is where you actually implement the change, whatever it may be.  This stage will follow the plan set out above in order to ensure everything runs as it is meant to. Although you will be following the plan, this is the stage that may cause you to encounter some problems that had not been thought of by anyone.  This is normal, and the problems can be solved as they appear. 

It may be beneficial during this step, to test a small-scale project of what you are going to be implementing prior to changing a whole process.  This could be done by organizing a trial within one department of the organisation before launching the new project fully throughout the business.


3. Check 

This stage of the PDCA model is where you examine whether the implemented change has actually had the desired effect.  Measure up the results of the change with the goals that were set during the ‘do’ stage to determine whether this is a success. 

If the results are not what you wanted, this is where you would return to step 1, rather than moving on to step 4. There is no point of moving through the rest of the process if the results were not met. When performing the check part, it must be taken into consideration whether the change implemented will work into the long-run or just for the time being


4. Act

The final stage of the PDCA cycle involves deciding what to do next.  This is where you will have to look at the outcomes of the check stage and weigh up whether it will be worth it or not to fully implement the proposed change. If you decide not to act on the implementation, it may be beneficial to ask “why did this not produce the results we wanted?” This will be helpful in gauging why the proposed system will not be successful, and may require running back through previous steps of the cycle.

If you decide to fully implement the change, this PDCA essentially stops. However, this means it is time to work on another PDCA.  It is a repeating cycle, until all of the organisations problems are solved. Ultimately, the PDCA is a tool used to improve all activities throughout an organisation. It is important that all steps are covered thoroughly rather than skimped over, as there are not many of them and disregarding one may lead to incorrect results at the end of the cycle.


Other Lean Management tools: 

Click here to find out what lean management is (and the 8 wastes of lean)