The Plan Do Check Act system is an effective problem-solving technique that sets the foundation for a culture of continuous improvement.
All organizations face a myriad of challenges, particularly the larger firms. Whether or not they are big issues like elusive revenue targets, or efficiency-specific problems such as rework, following the ‘Plan Do Check Act’ system will help businesses implement effective solutions.
The key activities involved in each of these four stages of this straightforward system are outlined for you below.
In this stage, identify the source of the problem and craft a solution. Conducting an intensive cause analysis is critical to any problem-solving initiative; allowing you to style a solution that may fix the issue, not merely cover it up.
Many tools can be used to conduct a root (or real) cause analysis. Two common tools that come to mind are fishbone diagrams (cause and effect) and the ‘5 whys’ (asking “why?” repeatedly until identifying the cause).
Once the cause of the problem is known and fully understood, choose and design the solution that best addresses it. Anticipate the impact following solution implementation, and make sure to collect the baseline information.
In the Do stage, carry out the solution. To prepare for the implementation, create action and communication plans, and conduct a stakeholder analysis. Once these elaborated plans are in place, enforce it in the work area.
In the Check stage, the results are reviewed to see if a solution has been reached and to quantify the benefits and advantages. Speak with the people directly involved in the change to get their opinion. Capture this new information, and compare it with the initial information to measure your gains.
In the Act stage, the amendment is incorporated into standard work, if no further enhancements are necessary. If moving forward with the final amendments, change any process documents accordingly, and communicate the permanent changes to all stakeholders.
If more improvements are required, apply the Plan Do Check Act system once more, until the changes can be incorporated into commonplace work practices.
While the above stages offer guidance on what activities need to take place, of equal importance is ‘how’ these steps are carried out, and how they are applied.
The most successful problem-solving initiatives actively engage employees at all levels throughout this process. Employees on the front lines, who do the work daily, have the foremost comprehensive understanding of where the problem areas are.
These employees know what solutions are going to be most effective, and what communication and coaching need to exist. By placing value on their comments, and basing solutions on their hands-on knowledge and ideas, organizations will carry out effective solutions for the longer term.
The Plan Do Check Act system is an effective problem-solving technique that sets the foundation for a culture of continuous improvement. Momentum will increase as employees learn to apply the new tools to their work areas — which of course is the goal for any organization seeking efficiencies through employee engagement.