The Deming Cycle & Continuous Improvement

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Today’s post examines the Deming Cycle. Like Kotter’s 8 Phases of Change, the Deming Cycle provides managers a framework for successful, continuous change/improvement.

The Deming Cycle consists of 4 elements: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

1) Plan – Very generally consists of: Identifying the current state (Where are we?), identifying the ideal state (Where do we want to be?), and charting a course from Current to Ideal (How do we get there, how will we know when we’re there?).

2) Do – Put the Plan into action. But as we last week illustrated, beware the pitfalls of a poorly constructed plan, lack of a coalition, and other common mistakes.

3) Check – Evaluate the plan’s early results using the metrics and measurable data points in your plan.

4) Act – Adjust the plan as needed, remembering to build upon the little victories won thus far.

The Deming Cycle is an intentionally short list. It is designed with only 4 elements for companies that have struggled to complete longer, more complex models.

But while it is simplistic on its face, there are critical questions to ask at each checkpoint. In this case, you might utilize another, more robust model, or hire a consultant for help building out the details of your change initiative or to assist with next steps.

For a successful outcome, it is critical that you don't rush through the Plan stage when using Deming. The “plan” needs to consist of at least answers to basic questions - like Who / What / When / Where / Why / How - in order to properly set up the Do and Check phases. For example:

- Who will be involved in this project?

- What does a successful outcome look like?

- When are the deadlines?

- Where does this project fit with other corporate goals?

- How will we measure progress?

- Why are we doing this?

Tomorrow on the video blog, we'll take a look at this change model in greater depth and detail.

Do you prefer the structure of Kotter’s 8 Phases or the Deming Cycle? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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