Many people are familiar with the term PDCA cycle, but do not know the specifics of the cycle and how it can be used to improve business operations. How can we use the PDCA cycle to improve our business?
In this issue, we will introduce the meaning of the term «PDCA cycle» and the concepts and tools for specifically utilizing the PDCA cycle in business operations.
Basics: What is the PDCA Cycle?
PDCA is an acronym for…
…and the term «PDCA cycle» refers to improving things by repeating these four steps.
The point is that the PDCA cycle is not a one-time event, but to repeat the process of…
- Making a plan
- Executing the plan
- Analyzing the results
- Improving problem areas
In other words, once you have progressed to «4. Improving problem areas» you return to the process of making a new plan to improve the problem areas. The ideal way to operate the PDCA cycle is to improve things in a spiral shape by repeatedly improving the plan while performing the PDCA cycle.
PDCA Cycle and BPM
Incidentally, BPM (Business Process Management) is a typical example of corporate activities to improve business operations through the PDCA cycle. The PDCA cycle is a concept that can be applied to a wide range of areas, from business to lifestyle improvement, but the key point of BPM is that it focuses on the flow of business operations (i.e. business processes).
In BPM, the work performed in each step of the PDCA cycle is embodied as follows.
- Design and visualization of business processes (Plan)
- Sharing and execution of business processes (Do)
- Monitoring of business processes (Check)
- Analyzing and improving business processes (Act)
Basically, it is the same four steps as the PDCA cycle, but BPM is unique in that visualization and sharing are indispensable. BPM is a method for constantly updating (i.e. optimizing) business processes to their best state by repeating these four steps.
When business processes are constantly optimized, operations can proceed according to the most efficient and error-free procedures at that point in time. This directly affects the quality of the services and products offered by the company, and also improves the work environment by reducing wasteful and unnecessary overtime work.
In addition, if the idea of BPM permeates the organization, even if the organizational structure and social conditions change, it will be possible to flexibly construct business processes that match the changes on the site.
Modeling Operations – Conception and Visualization
Now, I would like to add some additional information about modeling (visualization) of operations, which is necessary to make the PDCA cycle actually useful for business improvement.
Business modeling visualizes the flow of business operations by representing them in a diagram.
For example, it is one way to describe business procedures in writing, such as in a business manual, but by representing them graphically, business procedures can be more easily shared and smoothly executed (Do).
This is an indispensable element of BPM as well, and is a crucial part of the planning and analysis steps of the PDCA cycle.
First of all, when designing a business process, it is important to draw a diagram of the flow of the business to check for things such as:
- Whether there are any omissions or gaps in the business process
- Are there any unnecessary steps?
- Is the flow of the workflow streamlined?
With a diagram these things become easier to check.
In addition, if there is a problem in executing the business process as designed, it is necessary to identify the problem or issue in the process (Check). At that time, if the business process is represented in a diagram it is easier to identify problems and issues because the entire business process can be seen from a bird’s eye view.
The figure above is an example of a business process diagram drawn in BPMN (※) notation. Using this notation is effective in that anyone can easily grasp the flow of the entire business process as long as they understand a few rules.
In addition, if the rules of the business process diagram are shared within the team, changes and modifications to the process can be made smoothly by anyone involved in the business.
※ BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation): A business process drawing method designed to enable many people to intuitively understand the flow of business operations.
Questetra BPM Suite to Support PDCA Cycle Operations
Questetra BPM Suite, as the name suggests, is software that supports business improvement activities in line with the concept of BPM.
For example, Questetra BPM Suite includes the following functions that support the PDCA cycle.
- Easy creation of business process diagrams on a PC (Plan – planning and visualization)
- Automatic progression of work according to the created business process diagram (Do – Execution)
- Ability to refer to data such as the time taken to process a task, each member’s workload status, and results (Check – Analysis).
- Easy modification and sharing of business processes on a PC (Act – Improvement)
This is exactly what the Questetra BPM Suite is for, a software to operate the PDCA cycle in a way that is useful for business operations.
In addition, most of these workflow systems and BPM tools are difficult to set up on a server and prepare for use, but Questetra BPM Suite is a cloud-based service that can be used immediately after registration.
Another feature of cloud computing is that the same system used in the office can be easily accessed from anywhere as long as there is an Internet environment. This is a very useful point for improving work efficiency and remote working.
A free trial of Questetra BPM Suite is also available. Please take this opportunity to experience the operation of the PDCA cycle that actually helps your business with Questetra BPM Suite.
▼ You can also apply for a free trial here ▼