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Applying PDCA to a Lean Deployment

Anyone who has read many of the posts on this blog will probably notice that I’m a little obsessed with the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.  There is good reason for this. I believe that understanding and internalizing PDCA is an absolute necessity to have any chance of achieving a sustained lean transformation.
It surprises me when I see a lean deployment plan that doesn’t incorporate PDCA at its core. When this happens, the implementation often lacks the flexibility to address the unforeseen issues that can stall or even kill the effort.
Although there are some elements common to virtually every lean transformation, there is no magic formula.  People, organizations, and business environments differ, and it’s impossible to understand and take them all into account when developing the deployment plan.  Also, since people internalize and adopt the philosophy at different rates, flexibility is necessary to continue moving forward.  The PDCA cycle naturally builds continual checks and adjustments to assure the effort succeeds.
Besides increasing the probability of a successful transformation, applying PDCA to a lean deployment is an excellent way to demonstrate how the cycle is used to accomplish a major business initiative.  The steps, based on a Hoshin Kanri approach, include:
PLAN As with any improvement effort, a lean deployment plan must begin with clarifying the objectives and vision, as well as an idea of the current state of the organization to understand the gaps that need to be addressed so a plan of action can be developed;
DO  The plan must include clear steps, responsibilities, and timelines in order to be implemented effectively;
CHECK  Understanding whether the action plans are proceeding on schedule, as well as their effectiveness in enabling the stated objectives to be met are necessary to keep the transformation effort on course;
ACT  Based on the results of the CHECK step, the plan continues as designed or adjustments are made to address areas of weakness.
Modelling and coaching behavior are perhaps the most important aspects of leading a lean transformation effort. Attempting to get people to adopt PDCA thinking in their daily work without utilizing it as part of the plan will lead to frustration, confusion, and disappointment with the deployment altogether.

About Gregg Stocker

Gregg Stocker is a lean advisor for Hess Corporation. He possesses over 20 years experience in a variety of disciplines including operations, manufacturing, human resources, quality, and strategic planning, and has worked in manufacturing, service, and oil & gas industries. He has extensive international experience, including successfully leading an $65 million business in The Netherlands. He authored the book, “Avoiding the Corporate Death Spiral: Recognizing & Eliminating the Signs of Decline,” (Quality Press, 2006) and was a contributing author to "The Lean Handbook," (Quality Press, 2012). Gregg is a frequent speaker and recognized expert in business and performance improvement having been interviewed on television, radio, and in a number of newspaper and magazine articles including The New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek, and InformationWeek. Gregg has implemented change in organizations ranging in size from $10 million to more than $100 billion. He is a team-oriented leader who achieves results by improving teamwork, focus, and communication throughout the organization.


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