PDCA – Plan, Do, Check, Act. That is an acronym and those are words with which any safety manager or professional should be well-acquainted. In fact, the PDCA cycle should be at the heart of any management system, be it for finance, sales, logistics, IT, OSH, EHS or any other system that needs to be organized and structured. In-built with continuous improvement, it is its sheer simplicity that is the beauty of the PDCA cycle.
Enter Dr. W. Edwards Deming. There is a reason why the PDCA cycle is often called the Deming Cycle. A statistician by trade, Deming became something of an icon in Japan due to his management-related consulting work there in the post-World War II reconstruction period. His forte was particularly in the field of quality management and he quickly became a renowned author and expert on management system theory. For Deming, a system without planning, implementation, checking and corrective actions and proper review was a system doomed to failure.
At that time, systems theory was still nascent in industry and business. Deming could be considered a visionary, as he was a great believer that when things didn’t work in an organisation it was not the worker that was at fault (the prevailing belief by most owners and management then), but that the organization’s management system itself was to blame. This can only be considered revolutionary, as Deming believed that the seemingly abstract (i.e. the ‘invisible’ management system) and not the physical (i.e. the worker or machinery, etc) was where responsibility should be apportioned when things went wrong or did not work.