The Benefits of Implementing the PDCA Cycle
Continuous improvement is a process or methodology wherein organizations are constantly looking to improve themselves. This can be done by making small, incremental improvements to existing products or services, or by implementing new ideas, to grow your business. Believe me, it’s essential that you embed continuous improvement into your psyche.
Why is continuous improvement important in business?
In today’s world, it is no longer possible for a company to stay in its comfort zone without failing. The world is moving so quickly, that businesses must respond to evolving customer demands, new regulations, and a changing political climate ─ and, of course, the evolution of the Covid pandemic ─ simply to keep pace.
Now there’s more competition than ever ─ especially in the global market ─ and dynamics are changing. We are currently experiencing difficulties with the supply chain, a need for excellent customer service, a society that is concerned with reducing waste and tackling climate change, and an inflationary climate that is forcing companies to reduce costs.
Continuous improvement is important because it enables a business to not only respond to current challenges but also allows them to prepare for and lead the way as new challenges come along.
The need for continuous improvement has never been greater. Failure is replaced by growth, as continuous improvement drives innovation and empowers a company to remain relevant and perform at its peak. Instead of challenges being problematic, they become opportunities for a business to exploit.
What are the purpose and benefits of continuous improvement?
With a mindset of continuous improvement, businesses find new ways to do things more efficiently and effectively, to reach goals, and achieve targets with less effort. As this mindset embeds itself into a company’s culture, employees start seeking ways to tweak what they do and suggest changes in the workplace that will make their job easier, saving time and effort.
The benefits of continuous improvement include:
Your people are more engaged with their work
Employees are more highly motivated in the continuous improvement process, and motivated employees tend to stay with a company. You benefit from higher productivity and lower staff turnover.
You deliver more competitive products and services
As your day-to-day manufacturing processes improve, you’ll produce higher-quality products and services in less time. This will ensure you remain competitive in your market.
You improve your customer service
Customer service is at the heart of every organization. It’s the one aspect that business owners can’t afford to neglect. This is why it’s so important to implement a customer service strategy that can deliver prompt responses, improved interactions, and better resolutions. How? The best way to do this is by adopting a process of continuous improvement: identify current service levels, set higher performance targets, introduce and measure improvements, and tweak as necessary.
Your business develops a proactive learning mindset
A culture of continuous improvement naturally develops a proactive learning mindset. This allows you to learn from mistakes, see the bigger picture, and break the rules when necessary.
Everyone is on the same page
The process of continuous improvement is the search for something better to replace something that is already in use. The spirit of continuous improvement is the drive to do things better today than they were done yesterday. When this is embedded in your company, when people produce a new idea, they can share it with everyone who is working on a project or task. Continuous improvement becomes a collective purpose.
You create accountability
While continuous improvements deliver increases in efficiency, effectiveness, and product and service quality, it cannot happen without accountability. If there is no accountability, there will be no change.
Regardless of the size or industry, every company should have a data-driven culture that supports continual improvement and accountability. By implementing this strategy, employees will be more likely to identify opportunities for improvement and deliver better work because they know they are being measured against specific metrics and goals.
Some of the most successful continuous improvement company examples
There are three common traits that many of these companies share that make them successful:
They embrace the idea of continuous improvement
They focus on quality and creativity
They act on information
We can see that the most successful companies today benefit from a culture and business strategy of continually improving. Here are five companies that use continuous improvement strategies, and notes on how they achieve continuous improvement in their businesses.
Amazon is taking over the world, isn’t it? What started as an online bookseller now leads the way in sectors like warehousing, distribution, internet and web services, and others.
It could not have achieved its success without a culture of continuous improvement. This is led by Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO, and permeates down through the company. It continually strives to improve the customer experience. Bezos banned PowerPoint presentations at meetings. Instead, participants read six-page memos in silence, to ensure they are fully focused.
When you think of innovation, you think of Google. Almost daily, the company releases upgrades or new products and services. How do they do this?
Google lets its employees be creative. They use a system called Objectives and Key Results (OKR) to drive alignment to a collective vision. Employees work toward improvement objectives that are monitored and measured. Projects run like clockwork, with teams seamlessly transitioning to a new project as soon as the one they are working on is completed.
Tesla relies on two main elements to continuously improve its products: some of the best scientific minds in the world, and data-driven experimentation. Tesla also makes sure it knows everything it can about its customers ─ there are even computers installed in Tesla cars for direct communication with customers.
Tesla also utilizes a continuous feedback loop to drive its process of continuous improvement, but it does so innovatively. One of the first steps in the production of each Tesla car is the fitting of the onboard computer. This then records every subsequent part fitted ─ when, how, and even by whom if it was manually fitted.
Toyota is considered to be one of the founders of modern continuous improvement methodology, though it adopted much of its early practices from W. Edward Deming and Ford. What it has done, though, is applied scientific thinking in its production process.
You’ve heard of just-in-time manufacturing? Toyota’s brainchild, as was ‘Jidoka’, is the system of stopping production as soon as a problem occurs, so that no poor products are manufactured.
Innovation, continuous improvement, and Apple. Three words/phrases that sit together comfortably.
One of its major innovations was in how it runs its business. It has at least some control over every single piece of its supply chain ─ from components all the way through to retail.
Apple also has vision, delivering what customers want before those customers know what they want! It is continually striving to improve the look, feel, and performance of its products. Its secret of continuous improvement? Creativity.
How to implement continuous improvement in your business
A company that wants to stay competitive needs to be constantly improving. The continuous improvement process includes an identification of the company’s potential process improvements, analysis of them, implementation of them, and evaluation of results.
Continuous improvement is a way for a company to get better at what it does without having to go through multiple changes in strategy or investments in innovative technologies or skillsets.
So, how can you implement continuous improvement? The answer is the PDCA cycle.
What is PDCA?
The PDCA cycle is a continuous loop of steps that is used to improve something. The acronym stands for Plan, Do, Check and Act. It captures the many phases of a process and ensures that it is both robust and flexible.
It’s a sequential and continuous process in which we establish objectives and criteria for evaluation, identify the causes of our problems, implement solutions to the causes, take action to check if the solutions are working, and continue with these steps until our objectives are met. Here is how it works:
Plan: Setting goals
The first step in the process is to identify the problem or issue you wish to solve. Once you have identified the problem, brainstorm practical solutions. Decide which is most feasible and realistic, and set this as your goal. Decide how you will measure your success.
Do: Take action
Decide what action needs to be taken to achieve your goal, and do it.
Check: Measure outcomes
Evaluate the results of your actions, measuring them against the criteria for success implemented in your plan.
Finally, adjust what you are doing to optimize outcomes, and then create this as your new standard. This now becomes the starting point for the new iteration of the PDCA cycle.
Use PDCA in your business and personal portfolio
Continuous improvement: essential for any business to survive and thrive. It’s also essential, for you as an individual.
To make continual progress in your business and your life, you should utilize this model every day. With every new experience you gain from following this cycle, you will be able to make better decisions in the future and become a more successful person overall, and lead a successful and growing business.
Would you like to learn more about embedding continuous improvement into your life and your business? Then book me for a consultation.