PDCA is a model for structured problem-solving
- Plan: Expressing our model of reality that leads us to believe a particular action, or set of actions, will have a desired effect. NOTE: this is not just blindly proposing a change;
- Do: Taking, or attempting to take, action;
- Check: Reflecting upon the effect of action(s), including on any problems with implementation. NOTE: this is not just measuring results with no reflection;
- Act: Take appropriate action in response to our reflection, whether validation of our model of reality and capturing this in standards, or adjustment of our model of reality.
PDCA is a false, but useful model to avoid common errors
PDCA is a simple, not entirely accurate, but useful model to remind ourselves to avoid common errors:
- Doing without planning, which leads to pretending that what happens is what you actually wanted to happen (aka hindsight bias);
- Not checking, which also implies not validating if your model of reality is correct;
- Not capturing lessons, leading to the waste of relearning.
Another way to think about PDCA: Think, Act, Think Again
Borrowing from Adam Chan, another way of thinking about PDCA might be:
- Think before acting;
- Act and be in the moment;
- Think again, that is, reflect and adjust
The key things are:
- Don’t overanalyse when you’re acting. Even if there’s still some thinking, the focus during acting is being in the moment;
- You don’t actually learn anything unless you think before and reflect after. If you’re always just “in the moment”, you’ll get stuck to your current strengths and never improve.
Think, Just Do It, Reflect
I previously called this a Just Do It, Reflect cycle (better described as a Think, Just Do It, Reflect cycle) based on acknowledging the cognitive load of improvement.
“We’ll set aside some time to think about what we want to do, which is hard work, but then we’ll just do it… and then based on a trigger and/or a set time, we’ll reflect and adjust.”