At Array, we continually strive to improve our process so our customers can receive the best quality product we can produce. Plan-Do-Study-Adjust (PDSA) is a process improvement tool that aids in the creation of better processes. Using Karen Martin’s clarified version of the PDSA found in The Outstanding Organization, employees at Array are tackling problems, determining root causes, developing solutions and periodically reviewing the outcomes to ensure that these issues do not surface again. Here is Array’s take on these four steps:
PLAN | Develop Hypothesis
The planning phase is the most rigorous and time consuming. It is also the most important, if the project team doesn’t carry out the planning phase to its fullest, the subsequent phases will not produce the expected results. By understanding current state operations and explicitly stating the problem during planning, systems can begin exploring root causes, which provide concrete explanations for why the problem exists, and identifying an ideal future state. Sometimes the flow of the meeting results in a slightly different order, but we always take measures to ensure that we explore every part of the planning phase thoroughly.
DO | Conduct Experiment
In the do phase of PDSA, countermeasures are developed to address the root causes found in the previous step. A test group can execute effective countermeasures that relate directly to the problem at hand. Once there is consensus around the proper countermeasures, an implementation plan can be developed and carried out. Typically, the problem-solving team is first to perform the implementation.
STUDY | Evaluate Results
The study phase, largely made up of data collection and user feedback, is exciting because the problem solvers on the team get to experience the effects of their countermeasures first hand. Results collected from the study phase drive the next part of the PDSA cycle. While it seems simple, this phase leads to data-driven results that form the foundation of meaningful change.
ADJUST | Refine, Standardize, Stabilize
At Array, we interpret the adjust phase in a number of different ways. Sometimes, the solution under evaluation works perfectly and all users affected by the change can adopted it. In this case, a system rolls out the implementation plan used in the study phase, and the change becomes a standard for all users. Other times, the solution needs a little tweaking, resulting in a new cycle of PDSA. In either situation, this phase always serves as a reminder to re-visit a previously completed project. The re-evaluation helps determine whether the benefits of the change still apply and opens the door for future improvements. If there is a need for changes at this time, the PDSA cycle begins again, leading to an even better solution.
Continuous Improvement is a daily mantra at Array, inside and outside our walls.