PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act)

PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) is a four-stage iterative problem-solving method that can be used to improve a process or implement alterations.

It’s important to involve internal and external clients when using the PDSA Cycle. They can give feedback on what works and what doesn’t. It makes sense to involve customers in the process, when it is appropriate and feasible, as they define quality. If you are unsure of who your customers really are, you might want to create a chain to help you identify them.

Ask yourself these three questions before applying for PDSA:

  1. What do we want to achieve?
  2. How can we tell if a change has been made?
  3. What can we do to improve our situation?

PDSA Plan Stage 1

A. Recruit team

Create a team of people who are familiar with the issue or improvement opportunity. Look for team members who are engaged and forward-thinking.

After recruiting members of the team, define roles and responsibilities. Set timelines and create a schedule for meetings.

B. Create a goal statement

In an goal statement, describe what you are trying to achieve. Answer these three basic questions:

  1. What do we want to achieve?
  2. How can we tell if a change has been made?
  3. What changes can we make to improve our situation?

C. Describe the current context and processes

Think about it.

Examine your current process. Ask the team some basic questions.

  • What are we doing?
  • How do we do it?
  • What are the main steps of the process?
  • Who are the participants?
  • What are they doing?
  • What has been done well?
  • What can be done better?

If you’ve done a analysis of SWOT, then the answers to these two questions may already be in your head.

Swim lane maps are available.

It may be helpful to create a Swim Lane Map in order to visually explain your process.

It can be extremely useful to create a flow chart or even just a representation of the current process. You may have identified the source of the problem if your team is experiencing roadblocks. Or, perhaps the person who can identify the missing step isn’t at the table.

More detail

These questions can help you further after the structure has been completed:

  • How long does it take to complete the current process? Each step?
  • What are the current variations in the way that the process is completed?

D. Describe your problem

Use the statement of aim created in Step B to state your desired achievements. Then, use data and information as a way to determine whether your organization is meeting or not meeting these accomplishments.

You can find out if your employees are stressed at work by asking them about it.

Problem statement

You can write a statement of the problem to summarize your team consensus. If your team has identified multiple problems, you may want to give them a priority and/or explain why they chose the problem(s).

E. Identify the causes and alternative solutions

Analyze the causes

Work to identify the causes of your problem by using tools like control charts, fishbones and work flow process mapping (e.g. flowcharts or swim lane maps). The cause analysis should be summarized at the end by describing the root causes and justifying them.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the cost (including money, time or other resources)? How much does it cost?
  • Do we follow the correct steps?
  • Does someone else does this process differently?

Consider alternatives

Complete the statement to try and mitigate your root cause.

If we do ______, then ______ will happen. “

Select an alternative or a few that you think will help you achieve your goal and maximize your resource.

Create an action plan that includes the necessary resources and staff, as well as a timeline. You should consider the risks that you may face when implementing your action plan.

PDSA Stage 2: Do

Implement your plan. Collect data along the way to evaluate your plan at Stage 3. Study. You might want to consider using a flowchart, check sheet, swim lane chart, or run chart for your team to record data/occurrences over time.

You should also record any problems, unexpected effects, and observations.

PDSA Stage 3:

Based on the goal statement created in stage 1: The plan and data collected during stage 2: Do determine:

  • Does your plan have resulted in an improvement? How much/little did your plan improve?
  • Is the action worth it?
  • Are you able to identify trends?
  • Did you experience any unintended effects?

Use a variety of tools to evaluate and review an improvement visually, such as a Pareto graph, control chart or run chart.

Stage 4: Act

Plan and evaluate the outcomes

  • Standardize and start using it regularly if your team determines that the plan was successful. After a period of time, go back to stage 1: Plan to re-examine your process and see where you can improve it.
  • If you believe that a different strategy would be more effective, go back to Plan and create an entirely new plan.

The PDSA cycle continues, and as organizations intuitively incorporate PDSA in their planning, they become more efficient.

Celebrate the lessons learned and celebrate improvements

  • Communication of accomplishments with internal and external clients
  • Preserve your achievements and take steps to sustain them
  • Plan for long-term improvements
  • When needed, conduct iterative PDSA cycles