Friday, April 1, 2011

Quick PDCA

Do you ever get impatient when process improvements take too long? I know I do, as do several of the stakeholders that I work with in healthcare. Why does improvement sometimes take so long? One theory is that we wait too long to initiate PDCA cycles.

The Normal, Slow Approach

On a big Black Belt-led improvement project utilizing the DMAIC approach, we don't get to testing countermeasures using PDCA until the Improve phase. On some projects, it can take quite a while to get to that point. Sometimes, it's because data is not readily available during the Measure phase. Other times, it might be that the project team is having difficulty coming to a consensus during the Analyze phase on which countermeasures to implement. Whatever the reason, there almost always comes a point when we need to display a bias for action.

The Quick PDCA Approach

In other words, sometimes we need to stop relying on data and brainstorming, and just go do an experiment. PDCA is our approach for doing these experiments. Plan the test, perform the test, check and study the results, and adjust based on what you learn. It's rigorous, scientific, and time-tested. But we can't enjoy the benefits of PDCA unless we use it. So, have a bias for action. If data is hard to come by, go to the Gemba, do a quick PDCA, and see with your own eyes what works and what doesn't. If the team can't come to a consensus on what the countermeasure should be, stop deliberating and go do a quick PDCA.

Bias for action. Experimentation. Iteration. Learning opportunities. Quick PDCA.