Managing the Implementation through PDCA

Posted on November 2, 2012 by


We are now at the 30 day period following the first kaizen event in the joint Dept of Adult Juvenile Detention / Jail Health Services value stream improvement. While improvements to processes and systems have not yet been implemented, this is an exciting time as these changes will be going live in 4 weeks time on Dec. 3rd. In working with the management team from both deptartments, a critical theme in managing the implementation is the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) methodology. While the concept sounds so simple, it is surprisingly diffcult in practice to learn,adopt and maintain its rigor in a coordinated way. So what is PDCA and why is this important from an implementation standpoint?

The short answer is that PDCA represents the scientific approach to solving problems and engaging in continuous improvement. It is dynamic, iterative, and infinite in that it never ends. The concept at the operational level is a difficult one to understand in many organizations, but even more so in public sectors like King County. The cultural mindset has historically been to conduct a project, spend lots of time getting everything perfect, then implement changes that tned to be static, formal, and not to be questioned or re-visited “come hell or high water.” When the results of the change do not meet what was expected, or as the process management steadily declines over time, we are left scratching our heads.

Managing through PDCA means being disciplined and coordinated with checking the results of our experiments, then taking action: adjusting and re-running the PDCA, standardizing if successful, and even scraping the idea, and starting anew. It takes some coordintation to ensure that there is a process and the right timing for check / adjust, and that the check / adjust steps are not missed. This is to ensure that changes don’t occur randomly or on the fly, and ideally we have single point variables that get tested in a controlled fashion, as opposed to multiple vairables, which make it difficult to assess experiements. It is also a great opportunity to engage staff in learnings, adjustments, and improvement ideas to begin the next PDCA iteration. This is refreshing when front line staff see that this is only the beginning as opposed to the only chance to address solve pressing problems they face.