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PDCA circle

Many small improvement projects, like Kaizen events and other level-ll initiatives, follow the Lean and Agile process improvement cycle – PDCA approach or Deming’s cycle. The PDCA abbreviation stands for plan-do-check-act and is also known as the Deming or Shewart circle. We will briefly review each of the four steps:


Within the plan-phase we will identify a relevant issue, followed by forming a team that has the knowledge and time to work on the problem and is empowered to implement the solution. We will define the problem description and establish the objectives.

Then the problem will be analyzed and possible causes with be determined. Without a good problem analysis there is a risk that the invented solutions do not address the real problem, but only the symptoms. Quality tools and brainstorm techniques like the Ishikawa (or fishbone) diagram or 5-why’s can be used in this phase.

Finally we will generate a solution and create an implementation plan. The plan will be presented   to the department leader to get approval to execute the plan.


Within the do-phase we will execute the implementation plan and put in place the solutions that will take away the root cause. Data of the improved process will be collected.


Within the check-phase we will compare the daft of the improved process with the initial data. We will measure the effect of the solution and verify if the root cause has indeed been eliminated. We will also verify if the output of the improved process is what we would expect.


Within the act-phase we will review whether the actions taken have effectuated in the right effect. If needed additional actions have to be initiated. Second, we have to sustain the established improvement. This is an important step to ensure that the process performance will not deteriorate over time again. In the PDCA-picture this step is the wedge. Without securing the improvement properly, we will for certain face the same problem again in the future.

PDCA used in Scrum and DevOps


One of the tools Toyota has been using to manage people to achieve operational learning and to present project results is the A3-report used in DevOps and Agile process improvement approaches. The report is named after the international paper size (A3) on which it fits. It is a key tactic in sharing a deeper method of thinking that lies at the heart of Toyota’s sustained success.

An A3 report is composed of a number of sequential boxes arrayed in a template. Often, the four steps of the PDCA process are followed and visualized in the A3-template. On the opposite page an A3 is presented of problems encountered within the translation process of documents. The project leader will be using the A3-approach to attack the problem while he was mentored by his supervisor. Steps are

  1. Describe problem background
  2. Describe the current problem conditions
  3. Set the desired goals
  4. Analyze the situation to establish causality
  5. Define possible countermeasures
  6. Define the action plan to implement solution
  7. Define follow-up actions

Information Radiator A3 report

8-D Problem Solving Process

A problem solving method often applied in the automotive sector is the ‘eight disciplines problem solving’, also called ‘8D’ or ‘Global 8D’. Its purpose is to identify, correct and eliminate problems. This is used in the modern day for agile process improvement roadmaps. It is also a communication technique. A customer can ask a supplier to conduct an 8D investigation when he faces a problem. Because the steps in the process are defined, it is clear to the supplier what is expected. During the problem solving process, the customer and supplier can communicate about expectations and progress with certain steps.

D1       Establish the team

D2       Describe the problem

D3       Develop interim containment actions (ICA)

D4       Identify & verify root cause

D5       Identify permanent corrective actions (PCA)

D6       Implement and validate the PCA

D7       Prevent re-occurrence

D8       Congratulate the team

DMAIC roadmap

The roadmap followed for both Lean and Six Sigma breakthrough projects at level-3 and level-4 is the DMAIC roadmap. DMAIC is an abbreviation for define, measure, analyze, improve and  control.

DMAIC refers to a data-driven improvement initiative used for improving, optimizing and stabilizing business processes and products. The DMAIC roadmap offers a focused and structured approach to improve processes and solve problems in an organization. Although its origin is Six Sigma, the roadmap is also used as a framework for other improvement applications like Lean. As such it can be used for Kaizen projects as well, however it is better to follow the PDCA (plan, do, check, act) roadmap for these types of projects.

DMAIC Roadmap


  • Define and scope project
  • Define defect
  • Plan and document project


  • Valuate measurement system
  • Establish baseline
  • Set improvement goals


  • Map process and identify inputs
  • Isolate key inputs
  • Develop y=f(x) function


  • Determine optimum settings
  • Implement proposed improvement
  • Validate proposed improvement


  • Implement control strategy
  • Close out project