How to Use the PDSA Cycle in Your Daily Life?

How to Use the PDSA Cycle in Your Daily Life
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Luciana Paulise

Last updated September 11, 2017


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In order to help an organization embrace quality and continuous improvement, even a small business, it is very effective to help people see how they can use simple quality tools in their daily life first, like for example the PDSA Cycle.

There are many ways to take advantage of quality thinking to save time and money. You can even start applying quality tools at home, and then implementing them at work will come naturally.

Many lean tools like 5S (here's an insightful article that provided more details about implementing 5S) and poka.yoke are great lean tools that are very much applied at any kind of organization, including kinder gardens and even at home.

A tool that I constantly use is the PDSA cycle (Plan Do Study Act). This cycle was designed by Walter Shewhart, and popularized by Edwards Deming in the 50’s when he travelled to Japan to help rebuild their industry after World War II. It soon turned famous, and became the structure of many quality methodologies like Lean, Six Sigma and ISO 9001 (if you recall the DMAIC six sigma Cycle in the article “How to develop and nurture a six sigma culture”  you will notice it resemblance with the PDSA).

This cycle is part of my daily life since I am very young, even though I wasn’t even aware there was a tool like this. It works like this:

The PDSA cycle  

Plan:

I use a white board at home with all the weekdays and three different shifts (morning, afternoon, evening) to write down the basic activities that are repetitive every week. This information is quite standard every week, that’s why to me is long term planning as it helps me organize most of my activities. I also block my Google calendar with the specific activities to make sure I know when I have spare time, and also make sure I consider my schedule appreciating the whole system, that is, my family’s schedules as well.

Anyone at home can access my whiteboard. This reminds all of us that our family is a system, like a small business, where everyone needs to know the main responsibilities each of us have, be aware that we are all connected and that we all need to work together to make our lives easier.

Extra activities or specific tasks are booked in a check list within my cellphone with due dates, organized showing which tasks are due today, the tasks due next week and the ones that are past due. This check list help me clear my mind, to make sure I don’t miss anything. I also even have a note book next to the bed to write down tasks I remember at night, that I include in my main check list the next morning.

Do:

I try to follow my schedule very tightly in order not to move all the main activities around. In regards to the extra tasks, once I perform them, I check them out of the list to have in mind what’s really missing. Every day I review the check list to prioritize the remaining activities based on their urgency and importance, thanks to Stephen Covey time management grid. Urgency and importance are defined in my mind based on the Pareto Principle (another quality tool), I try to perform first the 20% of the activities that will solve 80% of my problems.

Urgency and Importance

Study:

At the end of the day I ask myself if I needed to move any activities, change due dates, allocate more time or do differently in order to achieve better results next time. I share my thoughts with my husband to get his alignment and listen to his point of view, a sort of Hoshin review (another lean tool) to keep my feet on the ground appreciating the whole system again.

Act:

Based on the findings in my Study step I adjust the following schedule, re-assign tasks to someone else, change procedures or redefine priorities. An important thing that I have to keep in mind is to act in a positive manner. Sometimes reviewing results that didn’t meet expectations makes you feel bad about it, but it’s crucial you always take the best out of it and move on. The PDSA is a tool that intrinsically accepts that there will always be things to improve, so you just have to capture the knowledge, nor the frustration.

I hope you can start applying at least the PDSA cycle, Enjoy!

About the Author

Luciana is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She holds an MBA from CEMA University, a top-ranked institution at Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is also a Quality Engineer certified by the American Society of Quality (ASQ). She has participated as an examiner for the National Quality Award in Argentina. She is also a columnist for Infobae (Argentina), Destino Negocio (Spain) and the Influential Voices program for the ASQ (US).


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