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When to use your
to systematically apply the PDCA Lean Methodology for problem solving
After glancing over the long list of problem solving tools and methods...
You might be saying...
"All those one-liners make sense when I read them,
but I have a real-world challenge to solve right now... "
Exactly HOW do I apply PDCA — right now?
The best answer is often...
Use your A3 template
and the A3 problem solving method
Another good answer is...
Use your PDCA template (PDCA.xlsx)
When to use your PDCA template
Use your PDSA template whenever you encounter unknown territory that is a chasm between you and your next Strategic Challenge.
If you are not navigating unknown territory, then you should use your Tool Selection Matrix to choose appropriate lean tools and methods.
How to use your
Find and open your template
Find and open your PDCA template
(PDCA.xlsx or PDCAc.xlsx)
in the same way that you find and open your other 150+ Systems2win templates.
Save your working document
following the usual document storage and naming conventions established by your leaders
Open a Blank Sheet
When you're ready to start doing your own real work...
click the button to 'Open a Blank Sheet'
Excel Ribbon bar > Systems2win tab > Open a Blank Sheet
This blank sheet is where you will do your real work
(not on the Sample sheet)
Rename your new sheet.
If English is not your preferred language
Switch to your language, just like every Systems2win Excel template.
You and your Coach should do the first 3 steps of the Improvement Kata:
Now your team is ready to start using your
PDCA Coaching Questions
Between every PDCA experiment, you and your Coach will do a coaching session together.
Prior to that Coaching Session, you will use your PDCA template to prepare your answers, because you know that your Coach will ask the same questions every time.
* These 3 fields might also be duplicated or summarized on your visual Storyboard.
** You will often work on the same obstacle for several PDCA Cycles
These PDCA Coaching questions come from Mike Rother's book, The Toyota Kata
You should also be using the usual Lean Coaching Habits in everything you do
Use your Storyboard
Your working document created from this PDCA Coaching template is intended to be printed and posted on your Storyboard
Storyboard = a big visual management bulletin board that summarizes the the challenge that you are working on, and the progress that you are making.
Click a button, and now the same template is in Chinese, German, French, Spanish, or Portuguese
in ways that your personalizations will be automatically found & transferred every time you upgrade
for version control, distribution to a large number of scattered users, and all the other stuff that you don't want to pay an internal employee to re-invent
Tip: You will get even more value from your PDSA template when you supplement it with the PDCA Coaching Observations template (below).
There is even a template for your Coach's Coach, to help your Coach become a better Coach.
What you will learn by using the PDCA Coaching Observations template: (PDCAc.xlsx)
And guess what?
The Coach's Coach becomes a better Coach too.
Click each row header for pop-up help providing helpful tips and instructions. Study the sample data on the Sample worksheet.
Navigating unknown territory?
Use PDCA Coaching
As the Coach's Coach, you should usually observe the process without participating too much.
Give most of your feedback and mentoring after the session, and (before the session begins) give the Coach the option of whether to receive feedback in private, or with the Learner also receiving your feedback.
|1) Strategic (or macro)||2) Tactical (or micro)|
Click for larger image in new window
The PDCA Cycle is foundational
for continuous process improvement
At the root of every lean methodology is...
The Scientific Method
a theory of how something works, and how something that you might do might affect it
come up with a new hypothesis,
and a new experiment to test it
apply your new knowledge,and publish your results so others can benefit.
And then choose your next puzzle to solve
in a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement.
PDCA is the most popular lean methodology
You will also benefit from learning other popular problem solving methods
that each apply the Scientific Method in different ways.
has 2 names because late in W. Edwards Deming's career, he started using the word "study" instead of "check"
Plan / Predict
Then as part of PDCA Coaching Cycles, you and your Coach design experiments to better understand your process, and predict the outcomes that you anticipate might result from each experiment
It is acceptable to plan a PDCA Cycle where your only goal is to "go see" what is currently happening, but usually you will plan to change one thing.
Try it. Do your experiment as soon as possible.
How can you quickly do your experiment on a small scale?
Could we know the answer by this afternoon?
Rapid PDCA cycles are far more effective than long ones.
Think hold before tape before weld...
Check / Contemplate / Study
Study, Analyze, and Reflect on results
This is by far the most important (yet most likely to be skipped) part of the cycle
Act / Adjust
If results confirm what you expected,
then adjust the standard work to anchor the change, and socialize your success, so that everyone does it the better way.
If results are different from what you expected,
then adjust your thinking to come up with a new experiment to better understand the true nature of your process.
Then start over again...
using PDCA Coaching Cycles to identify your next obstacle and design your next test based on your (now greater) understanding
in a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement
There's no such thing as a failed experiment
"If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement.
If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery."
~ Enrico Fermi — Nobel Prize winning physicist
A "failed" experiment is more valuable than a "successful" one
Why? Because a refuted hypothesis reveals a knowledge threshold. It makes the limits of your current understanding visible.
And new discoveries can happen only in that blurry unknown gray area that lies just beyond your current threshold of understanding.
It is only when your experiment yields unexpected results that you are forced to design new experiments that will soon yield valuable new learnings.
We already know it probably won't work
That's the right mind-set to have, to approach a well-designed experiment.
The purpose of the experiment is not to prove somebody right, or somebody wrong.
Our goal is to learn more about "what are the obstacles preventing it from working?"
Because we can't overcome obstacles until we understand them.
Don't think too far ahead
A huge advantage of rapid PDCA Cycles is that you only need to plan your NEXT experiment.
The next experiment after that might change radically based on the results of this one.
It doesn't matter where you start
Every obstacle will be sure to surface as you progress through your experiments.
One strategy is to start by simply attempting to accomplish your next Target Condition using your process as it is — with no changes. You will be sure to be stopped by several obstacles, which you then simply write down in your Obstacles Parking Lot in your PDCA template and/or Storyboard, and then you consult with your Coach to choose the first obstacle to begin working through.
Learn more about the Scientific Method for Problem Solving
for daily kaizen
continuous improvements consistently found & implemented by Daily Accountability Teams
(not kaizen events, which are more of a burst of improvement)
For Daily Kaizen...
so the cycle emphasizes Standard Work even more becoming abbreviated to:
The DMAIC Cycle is similar to the PDCA Cycle, and is another way to apply the scientific method that is popular in the Six Sigma community.
(with emphasis on quality, more than time and cost)
And there are a half dozen acronyms spawned for DMAIC as it is applied to DFSS new product development and other special situations...
The Shewhart Deming Cycle
Edward Deming (1986)
The Six Steps of Kaizen
In their book Toyota Kaizen Methods, Isaiah Kato and Art Smalley
popularized the following Six Steps to Improvement:
See the training page for Problem Solving Tools
to learn about many other frameworks for applying a systematic approach to problem solving.
You get the idea...
Any approach to process improvement that applies
the scientific method is a lean methodology.
At their core, every tool and method originating from Lean Six Sigma teachings is a unique way of applying the scientific method to unique circumstances that you're likely to encounter on your lean journey.
What's the difference between a scientist and a third-grade science student?
They both know the definition of the scientific method...
but a scientist actually practices the scientific method with a high degree of skill to solve endless diverse real-world problems
That's your goal...
to be a skilled and experienced lean six sigma practitioner...
actually practicing the lean six sigma scientific methods — with a high degree of skill — to solve endless diverse real-world problems
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
aka DOE, D of E, designed experiments
Design of Experiments is a Six Sigma method to design, conduct, and analyze scientific experiments to test assumptions and hypotheses about how different variables affect the outcomes of a process.
Designed experiments are usually conducted in two phases:
Phase 1) Screening Experiment: to identify which of many possible variables have the most significant impact.
Phase 2) Optimization Study: to study the few most impactors variables more attentively.
(perhaps using repeatability and reproducibility studies)
Like everything else in the realm of Six Sigma... there is more to it than this brief summary.
For a more complete understanding, refer to the suggested reading: An Introduction to Design of Experiments, by Larry Barrentine.
If Six Sigma Design of Experiments sounds too complicated for you,
then it is
Unless your problem justifies the (much) greater complexity of Six Sigma, you should be using the (much simpler) PDCA lean methodology.
Suggested Reading and Resources for
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