What is the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) Process? Your Blueprint for Success.

What is the PDCA process (Plan Do Check Act)? Your Blueprint for Success.


Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) is a versatile and universal concept that has no industry boundaries, making it applicable to virtually any field or business. At its core, PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) is a methodology designed to foster continuous improvement by providing a structured approach to problem-solving and process enhancement.

This iterative process allows organizations to systematically plan their strategies, implement them effectively, and then refine their actions based on feedback and data to achieve progressively better outcomes.

The beauty of PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) lies in its simplicity and adaptability. Whether you're in manufacturing, healthcare, technology, or any other sector, PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) offers a clear, step-by-step framework that helps teams and organizations remain agile and responsive to change.

By consistently applying the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle, businesses can identify inefficiencies, test new solutions, and make data-driven decisions that lead to sustained improvement and innovation. In essence, PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) is not just a tool for operational excellence but a mindset that encourages ongoing learning and development, ensuring that organizations can continuously evolve and meet the challenges of an ever-changing landscape.

What is PDCA (Plan Do Check Act)?

The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle, also known as the Deming Cycle or Shewhart Cycle is a four-step management method used for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. Conceived by Walter Shewhart and popularized by W. Edwards Deming, the PDCA cycle provides a structured approach to problem-solving and process improvements.

Within the medical device field, the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle is as well incorporated in the requirements of the ISO 13485 standard for Quality Management Systems. The process approach enables organizations to plan their processes and the interaction between processes.

For Quality Management Systems, the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle can be applied to individual processes, but as well to the QMS software as a whole.

When to use the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle?

When applying the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) principle within a QMS, it can help to properly plan for all resources needed to ensure an effective QMS.

You can have specific PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycles for process improvement, project management, change management, quality control, etc.

Process Improvement:

When existing processes require refinement to enhance efficiency, quality, or performance, the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle provides an invaluable framework for achieving these improvements. Here's how each step in the PDCA cycle contributes to process improvement:


The first step involves a thorough analysis of your current processes to identify areas that need improvement.

Once the areas for improvement are identified, define clear, measurable objectives.

For instance, you might aim to reduce process cycle time by 20% or improve product quality to decrease defect rates.

Create a detailed plan outlining the steps needed to achieve these objectives. This includes specifying the resources required, assigning responsibilities, and setting timelines.


Put the action plan into motion. This could involve retraining staff, introducing new technologies, or adjusting workflows. Ensure that all team members understand their roles and responsibilities in this implementation phase.

As changes are implemented, collect data to monitor progress. This data should be aligned with the objectives set in the planning phase to ensure that you can measure the impact of the changes.


Analyze the data collected during the implementation phase. Compare the actual outcomes with the objectives you set. This evaluation helps determine whether the changes have led to the desired improvements.

If there are discrepancies between expected and actual results, identify the reasons behind these gaps. This might involve looking into factors such as unforeseen challenges, incorrect assumptions, or inadequate training.


If the changes have led to the desired improvements, standardize these new processes. Document the new procedures and train staff to ensure consistent implementation.

If the objectives were not fully met, take corrective actions. This might involve further training, additional process adjustments, or re-evaluating the initial plan.

PDCA is an iterative process. After acting on the results, the cycle begins again. This continuous loop ensures ongoing process refinement and improvement, fostering a culture of excellence and adaptability.

CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action)

CAPA management is crucial when an issue is identified, necessitating a structured approach to find and implement a solution.

Utilizing the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle within CAPA management ensures that problems are not only addressed but also prevented from recurring.

In the Plan phase, the issue is thoroughly investigated to identify root causes and develop a detailed action plan. During the Do phase, the plan is implemented to correct the problem and put preventive measures in place. The Check phase involves evaluating the effectiveness of these actions through rigorous monitoring and data analysis to ensure that the issue has been resolved and no new problems have arisen. Finally, in the Act phase, successful solutions are standardized across the organization, and any necessary adjustments are made to enhance future performance. This continuous cycle promotes a proactive approach to quality management, driving continuous improvement and operational excellence.

Project Management:

In project management, the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle is invaluable for managing projects that require iterative testing and refinement to meet objectives.

During the Plan phase, project goals, deliverables, and timelines are defined, and a detailed project plan is developed.

In the Do phase, the project plan is executed, with tasks assigned and resources allocated.

The Check phase involves continuous monitoring and evaluation of project progress, where performance data is analyzed to identify any deviations from the plan.

Finally, in the Act phase, necessary adjustments are made to the project plan and processes based on the insights gained, ensuring that the project stays on track and objectives are met.

This iterative approach allows for flexibility and responsiveness, facilitating continuous improvement and the successful achievement of project goals.

In other areas in a business the PDCA could be used to effectively drive change. These include:

  • Change Management: When implementing changes in an organization, the PDCA cycle helps ensure that changes are effective and sustainable.

  • Quality Control: In manufacturing and service industries, to maintain and improve product and service quality.

Advantages of the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) Cycle

One of the main advantages of the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle is the structured approach. The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle provides a clear and systematic method for planning, implementing and improving processes or products. Furthermore, it's a very flexible approach. It can be applied to nearly any industry. The iterative nature of the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle allows for continuous improvement where processes are regularly evaluated and refined.

The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle embodies a data-driven approach, where every decision to implement changes is grounded in data collected throughout the cycle. This systematic method involves gathering relevant data during the Do phase, which is then meticulously analyzed in the Check phase.

By comparing the collected data against predefined metrics and objectives, organizations can identify deviations, inefficiencies, and areas for improvement with precision.

This analytical process enables decision-makers to base their actions on concrete evidence rather than assumptions or intuition, leading to more informed and effective decisions.

Consequently, this data-driven approach ensures that improvements are not only targeted and relevant but also measurable and verifiable, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence within the organization. By leveraging data at every stage, the PDCA cycle helps organizations achieve better outcomes, optimize processes, and maintain a competitive edge in their respective industries.

The steps of the PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) Cycle

The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle is an iterative process consisting of four steps: Plan, Do, Check and Act.


The first step involves identifying objectives, the resources needed, the applicable policies and the risks and opportunities.


In the "Do" phase, the plan is put into action. The organization will implement what is has planned using the provided resources.


The "Check" phase involves analyzing the data collected during the "Do" phase to evaluate the success of the plan. This step is crucial for understanding whether the implemented actions or changes made are producing the desired results. It includes comparing actual outcomes to expected outcomes and identifying any deviations or issues that need to be addressed.


Based on the results from the "Check" phase, the "Act" phase involves making necessary adjustments and implementing changes if needed. If the plan did not achieve the desired results, this phase might involve revisiting the previous steps to develop a new plan. 


The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) Cycle is a 4-step method for implementing and further optimizing processes and products. It's a versatile method that can be used in several industries, including the medical device industry. By applying the four steps: Plan, Do, Check, Act, organizations have a framework to ensure continuous improvement.

The PDCA (Plan Do Check Act) cycle is embedded in the requirements of e.g. the ISO 13485 for quality management systems.

Learn more about how Matrix Requirements can help you as you launch your Medical Device to Market.

About the Author
Ann Vankrunkelsven
RA/QA Manager