P.D.C.A - The Deming Cycle

Picture the scene . . . the Director has discovered an irritating problem.

He asks his best manager to resolve it quickly and the manager drops everything to please the boss. The manager surveys the problem by asking a few involved workers to offer their opinions of causes, effects and potential solutions. The information gathered is assessed and by using common sense and experience, the manager decides the best course of action. A solution is implemented with speed and efficiency - the problem is now fixed! The manager cannot wait to inform the Director of the success.


Unfortunately a week later it is discovered that the problem has only partially been resolved. The Director feels let down and the manager is in the doghouse. What went wrong?

 

Absolutely nothing if you believe the Deming Cycle’s P.D.C.A process.

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In a traditional business culture, senior people are expected to resolve problems and make decisions. That’s the basis of their job. However in stark contrast the culture of an excellent company has a different leadership style along with different values and beliefs – such as;

  • It’s not the manager’s job to fix problems, instead they must facilitate problem solving with workers
  • Finding the root cause of a problem is the best way to resolve a problem permanently
  • Sometimes there are more than one root cause
  • Discovering true root causes can be difficult
  • The best way to fix a problem is to estimate a root cause quickly and implement a fix to see if it works
  • Guessing the wrong root cause is good not bad, as it leaves you wiser
  • Resolving problems is iterative - keep at it until the problem has been resolved

 

Imagine the difference in culture between the traditional and excellent companies.
In the former, fear is always in the background. Fear of failure, fear of letting the boss down, fear of not knowing all the answers. Often the smartest managers in the traditional company become adept at transferring blame onto others - thus apportioning the fear away from themselves.

 

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How would an excellent company perform with the above scenario?
Once the problem has been brought to the attention of the manager, the Deming Cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) clicks into place.

The manager mobilises a small team closest to the problem. Speed is of the essence. They quickly identify the probable cause and plan a solution. They implement the solution (do) then assess how well it worked (check). If the problem has not been completely fixed, they move onto the next cause (act) and plan another solution.

The P.D.C.A iteration continues until an adequate solution has been achieved.

 

So what are the major features of the excellent company? Iterations are good as new things are learnt with each cycle and failure does not exist. The workers closest to a problem are often the best ones to fix it - the manager does not fix problems, but coaches others to do so. Finally the way to respond throughout is to act quickly and not to procrastinate.

 

Article written by Joe Booth (April 2018)