PDCA at the Management Level

by Dennis R. Owens

The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle can organize your quality management system’s (QMS’s) management review process and help you focus on specific organizational needs.

Phase One: Plan the Review

In the first phase of the PDCA cycle, review the quality policy and objectives and determine whether they align with the business or marketplace. Are they valuable?

Input: Before starting, gather all prior measurement cycle information, including the policy, goals, metrics and improvement initiatives. These inputs must be defined prior to the start of the planning cycle if this is the first time your organization is following this process.

Process: Address the following:

  • Is your quality policy statement effective in today’s business climate?
  • Are objectives defined quantitatively and directly aligned to the policy?
  • Is customer, employee and supplier value easily identified in our policy and objective statements or metrics?
  • Is your quality manual a useful tool your employees rely on to understand, perform and improve their work?
  • How should you communicate to gain employee improvement feedback?

Output: Define and document answers to the process questions above, and define and document the quality policies, objectives and organizational alignments that address current business needs.

Phase Two: Do the Review

In the second phase of the PDCA cycle, review the processes and business management systems alignment.

Input: Use the phase one documented output information to determine whether your organization’s business processes and data gathering systems can adequately collect and evaluate data and turn them into useful information. Review your recent manufacturing resource planning, issues management or financial accounting software expenditures at this time.

Process: Ensure employees are informed of the QMS infrastructure and key business processes and data gathering systems are in place and operate as planned. During this phase, primarily focus on aligning requirements and demonstrating or testing systems operation, metrics design and ownership. The quality function deployment model is an excellent tool to use for this task.

Output: Agree on and approve processes, purchase or implementation of all business and information systems, business metrics requirements and ownership. Communicate the results to all employees.

Phase Three: Check the Review

In the third phase, review the performance of the QMS in operation. This is what commonly occurs in a traditional management review meeting.

Input: Using the outputs from phase two, ask the appropriate personnel to report on the performance of the QMS processes based on the quality policy and objective metrics.

Process: All responsible for metrics should present the outcomes of performance during the designated period. Corrective action plans, including any known risks of corrections, should be communicated, documented and assigned for appropriate QMS deficiencies. All major systems or systemic performance issues should be discussed and any recommendations shared with the rest of the organization. Consider using a process based performance assessment program to support this phase of the PDCA cycle.

Output: Document any action plans to improve QMS performance. In most cases, only top management should be held accountable for completing preventive actions. This will focus management on strategic and systemic improvement at its level. Communicate the results to all.

Phase Four: Act on the Review

Finally, review and improve any QMS projects.

Input: Using the output from phase three, prioritize all action plans, assign appropriate personnel and clearly define the timing of any projects.

Process: Review the top problems and develop an approach to address those problems that prevent the organization from meeting policy and objective metrics. Continuous improvement initiatives such as lean, Six Sigma and the Baldrige award criteria can help build and focus your organization’s continuous improvement platform.

Output: Create a prioritized matrix of continual improvement projects that captures project type, alignment to policy and objectives, estimated cost savings or return on investment, implementation timeframe and project leader. Communicate the results to all employees.

The management review process is the most important contributor to the effectiveness of a QMS. Top management must continually engage the system, using proven improvement and waste reduction tools, to reach operational and performance excellence.

DENNIS R. OWENS is a senior member of the technical staff at the Aerospace Systems Develop-ment Center at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. He earned a master’s degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. Owens is a member of ASQ and an RABQSA provisional auditor.

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