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        deming cycle headerUnderstanding quality and seeking to improve it is arguably the core purpose behind undertaking process improvements.

        But where did this philosophy of process improvement come from?

        One key person is William Edwards Deming – sometimes referred to as Edward W. Deming. He’s principally a statistician, but one could even call him a philosopher of science.

        Deming’s goal was to reapply the scientific method to business processes, and has left us with two main variants of his thinking: PDSA and PDCA.

        In this article we’ll outline:

        Deming’s approach is not just about improving processes, but about improving a whole business.

        In a recent meta-study from the British Medical Journal, researchers found only 2 out of 73 studies had applied PDSA in a way which fully met criteria. Commenting:

        To progress the development of the science of improvement, a greater understanding of the use of improvement methods, including PDSA, is essential to draw reliable conclusions about their effectiveness.

        And that’s why we’re writing this article!


        As we’ve established, the Deming cycle is a four-stage approach to continuous improvement. This section describes each of the four stages, and explains how you can implment each stage into your business to continuously improve quality and processes.


        • Start with small scale testing
        • Implement iterative changes to your experiments to test variables
        • Document every step

        In executing the plan, Deming would continue to reiterate the importance of remaining true to the scientific values underlying the investigation.

        Instead of simply deciding to make a change and suddenly overhauling all operations, it is vital to bring change about slowly and iteratively while testing hypotheses. Using studies which can be measured against control groups helps you better understand the data you receive, allowing you to not just improve your output but to understand exactly why your output was improved by the changes you enacted.

        For Deming, you should carry out the implementation as if it were a scientific experiment.


        • Implement your recommended changes
        • Track performance and data over time
        • Provide all documentation to the company to improve internal theory

        The Act stage is both the final stage of our process and the first stage of our next cycle.

        On a practical level, the Act stage may result in the practices of one of the controlled studies being implemented across business operations. Now that we’ve learned that output can be raised by doing?action x, we want to do?action x in each relevant department.

        The Act stage is both the implementation of improvements into the company and the implementation of new knowledge into our theory of our own company. The Act stage should attempt to synthesize the new information gleaned in the Study stage with our broader understanding of how our business operates.

        Much like the results of repeated experiments create new knowledge useful for both the conditions of those experiments and the body of scientific knowledge as a whole, so too must your results be incorporated into new premises from which you can begin the cycle again fresh.

        deming cycle continuous


        Now we’ve covered each of the four Deming cycle stages and we’re familiar with the concept, I can show you a PDCA change management template, that the team at Process Street have created, to help you with the following:

        • Start a new improvement project
        • Develop a new or improved design of a process, product, or service
        • Define a repetitive work process
        • Plan data collection and analysis in order to verify and prioritize problems or root causes
        • Implement changes
        • Work towards continuous improvement

        To get this template, click on the link below, add it to your account, and follow the instructions. If you’re not yet a Process Street user, you can sign up for a free trial; it takes 5 seconds.

        Click here to access the PDCA Cycle Change Management Model Process Checklist


        Use this template to identify individual problems, or failures, which can occur within a process. Then, find the causes of these problems and failures and prioritize them in order of importance. Once prioritized, these problems can be tackled and the process optimized.

        Click here to access the FMEA Template: Failure Mode and Effects Analysis!


        Use this template to highlight the weaknesses in your organization and the areas that require the most improvement. The template encourages you to analyze the following 7 aspects of your company, and detail how each aspect impacts one another:

        1. Strategy
        2. Structure
        3. Systems
        4. Shared values
        5. Style
        6. Staff
        7. Skills

        Click here to access the McKinsey 7-S Model Checklist Process!


        …formulating a hypothesis, collecting data to test this hypothesis, analysing and interpreting the results and making inferences to iterate the hypothesis.

        The most basic principle for the researchers is that the studies they are analyzing are clearly following the core elements of the scientific method. Simple enough.


        In line with the scientific experimental method, the PDSA cycle promotes prediction of the outcome of a test of change…

        This requires strong knowledge of what you’re seeking to do and how it will work in the context of a complex scenario with multiple variables. The stronger the theory, the better these variables can be accounted for. Being able to predict outcomes in advance is a greater validator of your theory than whether the experiment worked or not.


        As with all scientific methods, documentation of each stage of the PDSA cycle is important to support scientific quality, local learning and reflection and to ensure knowledge is captured to support organisational memory and transferability of learning to other settings.

        If Deming’s approach is about building a total theory of your business to operate from, then it makes no sense to not document your activities. Every finding is a data point, not just whether the experiment worked or not. Without all the data points, the theory which drives your business forward will not be the best it can be.


        Process Street is 千面男爵super-powered checklists千面男爵. It’s state-of-the-art business process management (BPM) software that specializes in making recurring work fun, fast, and faultless for teams everywhere.

        Take a look at this introductory video, or read this help article, to find out a little more about who Process Street is:

        As you can see, with Process Street you can create a process for anything and everything; from onboarding a new employee to writing your daily to-do list.

        Choose a process, build a template for the chosen process, or use one of our many pre-made templates (like the ones I’ve given you in this post), and each time you need to go through this process, run an individual checklist from that template. Checklists can be as simple or as detailed as you like.

        Create intuitive and helpful tasks using these features:

        Or, connect to thousands of apps via Zapier, webhooks, or API integration to automate as much of your process as possible and make life easier.

        Watch this webinar for more information on how to truly automate your processes:

        If you want to read around the subject of process improvement, take a look at these related articles



        Adam Henshall is a content writer for Process Street and dabbles in other projects inc Idyoma on the side. Living in Sevilla in the south of Spain, Adam's current hobby is learning Spanish! @adam_h_h


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