Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) is a well-known and respected approach to helping teams plan and implement a solution to a problem, often testing it on a micro scale and reviewing the results before agreeing how to proceed.
PDCA encourages an engaged, problem-solving workforce – the method is not limited to managers, but can be used across the organizational structure, using combined knowledge and experience. This helps business to innovate through creative problem solving.
Although it stimulates organizational problem solving, PDCA is not a problem solving approach as such. It is more of a planning and implementation method. It can be used as part of other problem solving techniques like Six-Step Problem Solving or Simplex.
The easiest way to think of it is a prototyping model. But it can be used for larger projects, where testing is not feasible – for example, if a business has already bought new, expensive equipment to solve a problem, then the implementation has to be on a large scale.
Usually the Problem Solving Group (PS) has already identified what they want to solve and the changes they would like to make. This may include how outcomes will be measured, or a specification. PDCA would then drop into any planning and implementation phases.
The method comprises four steps:
Plan This first stage clarifies the objectives of the chosen solution, and will identify which processes need to change (the problem will have already been defined, and a solution proposed using other problem solving techniques).
The PS group will plan how the solution is tested, and forecast what is expected to happen during the PDCA the cycle. This will result in a set of outputs, and usually set a baseline for improvement.
Focused work at this stage includes agreeing what data is to be collected, what resources are needed, and the actions that will take place and when. The PS group will then decide where the trial run will be held. At this stage ‘before’ data is collected for later comparison in the ‘Check’ step.
This involves physically implementing the solution, and collecting data for analysis in the next step, observation and project management.
This step should also include oversight to ensure that the solution is implemented as per the specification.
This step is about analyzing ‘before’, ‘during’, and ‘after’ data to see what can be learned. (Another name for this step is ‘Study’). ‘During’ data is easy to overlook, but any plan is implemented in phases, and if issues are to be found and identified quickly, these actions need to be measured.
Not only will the process be observed qualitatively as well as quantitatively, feedback can be gathered from the end users of the solution.
If the ‘Check’ demonstrates that the ‘Plan’ phase was implemented effectively and improvements can be seen on the baseline, then a new baseline is created and the cycle returns to ‘Plan’, using the new baseline. If ‘Check’ results infer that there has been no improvement from the ‘Do’ phase, then the existing baseline continues in place. In either scenario, if ‘Check’ reveals something different from expected (whether it has out-performed or underperformed), then it identifies that more learning is needed.
Personnel policies are guidelines that an organization or company creates to manage its workers. Personnel policies describe the type of job performance and workplace behavior an organization expects from its employees, and what type of compensation and opportunities for advancement it is offering in return. The rules, requirements, benefits and opportunities outlined in personnel policies are often viewed as a reflection of an organization’s values and goals.
Although personnel policies vary from company to company, most written policies are general rules that apply to all employees rather than specific job requirements for individual workers. Some of the most basic information includes the number of hours employees are expected to work each day, starting times, the amount of time allowed for breaks and lunch, and the number of sick days, personal days and vacation days each worker is entitled to take with pay each year.
Personnel policies also describe the pay employees can expect for their work, although often salary or pay levels or tiers are used rather than specific dollar amounts. Payroll schedules and whether employees are paid weekly or bi-weekly, opportunities to work overtime, pay raises, and what a manager may consider during an employee evaluation are also usually included. Companies also explain what type of health care benefits are offered for workers, and how much each individual is expected to contribute for that insurance. Reimbursement for mileage traveled in an employee’s personal vehicle, on-the-job expenses such as special clothing, and education that enhances an individual’s job performance are usually discussed as part of a company’s compensation package.
Supervisors and Grievances
The chain of command or who supervises an employee on the job should also be part of a personnel policy. Many employers clearly state specific actions or behaviors that are unacceptable in a workplace and the types of discipline workers can expect from supervisors if those rules are broken. However, most personnel policies also include a grievance process that explains how employees can appeal a supervisor’s disciplinary decision if they feels it is unfair.
Although employers can fill personnel policies with other requirements and benefits, in some cases, policy is determined by federal employment laws. For example, an employer can choose to pay its workers $100 an hour. However, an employer must, in most cases, pay a worker at least the federal minimum wage or the state minimum wage if it is higher. According to the Family and Medical Leave Act, a company with 50 or more employees must allow any worker who has been on the job for 12 months to take a 12-week leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a child, for a serious illness or an emergency involving the military service of a family member. The Equal Opportunity Commission enforces federal laws that prohibit an employer from discriminating against a worker based or her race, sex, religion or national origin.
Personnel policies are, in part, the result of a post-World War II movement that looked at the emerging field of organizational psychology and tried to apply certain rules to workers to make industry more productive and efficient. During the 1960s and ’70s, the field of human resources began paving a more humane and socially aware approach to personnel policies that emphasized a worker’s sense of safety, well-being and opportunity as a means to achieve greater productivity. Beyond productivity, writers like Jette Louise Flensburg, organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and scholars like Matt Huffman at the University of Santa Barbara believe personnel policies have the ability to create and foster equality among workers.