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The PDCA cycle refers to a method and concept which involve the implementation of all activities by individuals and organizations in the order “P: Plan”, “D: Do”, “C: Check”, and “A: Act”, and the repetition of these four activities. Today, this concept has been introduced into a wide range of management activities, and is now a central concept in business process management activities as well.


Outline of PDCA cycle

In production management activities, for example, the production plan (Plan) is developed first, and production activities (Do) are carried out in accordance with the plan. In the production plan process, not only the production volume is determined, but also production staff, production methods and materials, as well as quality, costs and delivery time (implicitly when necessary). “Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle”

According to the concept of the PDCA cycle, actions are not simply carried out in accordance with the plan, but the Check (evaluation) and Act (improvement) activities are also carried out.

The PDCA cycle can be defined by the principle of actions on business activities. The PDCA cycle is considered to increase the number of management man-hours required. In particular, operations for collecting various historical data may increase the workload.

The Check (evaluation) step is sometimes called Study, leading to the name PDSA cycle. The process is also known as the Plan-Do-See cycle (the PDS cycle). In this case, See represents both Check and Act.

What is Check (evaluation)?

The Check activity clarifies the gap between the plan and actual achievement. Specifically, through Check, the execution is observed and its results are aggregated, and these aggregated results are compared with the plan. In other words, Check is an activity through which heuristic knowledge acquired from the relevant planning and execution is analyzed. Check is sometimes translated by Japanese words meaning analysis, inspection, or audit.

  • Example A: There is a shortage of raw materials. This shortage was caused because the Gion Festival had not been taken into consideration.
  • Example B: Operations are functioning sufficiently using the methods currently adopted. However, there are some employees who do not understand procedures.
  • Example C: Activities for issuing estimates are not running smoothly. The main reason for this is that there are too many re-issuances of estimates due to misprints.

What is Act (improvement)?

The improvement activity generates a new theory in light of the details of Check (evaluation) or heuristic knowledge. Specifically, through Act, existing theories are revised, expanded or abolished if necessary. Act is sometimes translated by Japanese words meaning review, measures, or improvement.

  • Example A: It is necessary to establish a department specializing in the collection of information on seasonal variations to ensure that such information is shared companywide.
  • Example B: If procedure methods are shared in the early stages when the next plan is executed, stronger results are likely to be achieved.
  • Example C: It is necessary to develop a structure through which estimates are double-checked.


The PDCA cycle is also called the Deming cycle after Dr. W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) of the United States, who promoted quality management in Japan after World War II. Dr. Deming himself called the cycle the Shewhart cycle, because he considered the PDCA cycle to have been created by Dr. Walter A. Shewhart (1891-1967), who was Dr. Deming’s teacher.

Today, the concept of the PDCA cycle has been adopted by various international standards and management activities.

  • Quality management system, ISO9000
  • Environmental management system, ISO14000
  • Spiral models for software development
  • Risk management system
  • Information security management system (ISMS)
  • Development of management plans
  • Examinations of marketing activity hypotheses, etc.


In ISO9000, the PDCA cycle has been adopted as the quality system cycle. Most of the quality management systems (QMSs) are evaluated using the seven QC tools: histograms, scatter diagrams, cause-and-effect diagrams, control charts, pareto charts, check sheets and graphs.

  1. Plan: Establishing QMSs (including quality system procedures and quality plans)
  2. Do: Managing QMSs (including management of quality records)
  3. Check: Reviewing QMSs (including inspections and examinations)
  4. Act: Improving QMSs (including prevention and improvement measures, and education and training)

Relationship with BPM

The PDCA cycle is a theory that is adopted to continuously improve business processes in BPM activities. The PDCA cycle matches the BPM cycle. The relationship with each phase of the PDCA cycle is as follows:

  1. Plan: Defining operational processes (Model)
  2. Do: Carrying out operations in accordance with the defined operational process (Operate)
  3. Check: Operational processing results are collected and analyzed to understand the status of operational processing and issues, and present measures for improvement (Monitor)
  4. Act: Improving recognized issues (Optimize)

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