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Plan Do Check Act: ISO 9001 – The Key to Success

In today’s highly competitive business environment, organisations must continually evolve and adapt to meet customer expectations and stay ahead of the competition. Continual improvement is essential for enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing costs, and ensuring that products and services meet or exceed customer requirements consistently.

The Importance of Continual Improvement in Business​

In today’s highly competitive business environment, organisations must continually evolve and adapt to meet customer expectations and stay ahead of the competition. Continual improvement is essential for enhancing customer satisfaction, reducing costs, and ensuring that products and services meet or exceed customer requirements consistently.

By adopting a proactive approach to quality management, businesses can achieve a high level of performance, attract and retain customers, and maintain a significant competitive advantage.

Introduction to PDCA Methodology

The Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) methodology is a widely recognised and proven framework for implementing and managing continuous improvement efforts in organisations.

As an integral part of the ISO 9001 Quality Management System, the Plan Do Check Act cycle provides a systematic and structured approach to problem-solving, process improvement, and quality management, ensuring that organisations consistently deliver high-quality products and services to their customers.

Understanding the Plan Do Check Act Cycle

Origins and History of the Plan Do Check Act Cycle

The Plan Do Check Act cycle, also known as the Deming cycle, was developed by Dr W. Edwards Deming, an American statistician and management consultant who contributed significantly to the field of quality management.

The PDCA cycle is based on the scientific method of hypothesising, experimenting, observing, and refining, which Deming adapted to the business context. The PDCA cycle has since become a universally recognised tool for continuous improvement and forms the backbone of the ISO 9001 Quality Management System standard.

The Four Stages Explained


The planning stage is the foundation of the PDCA cycle, where organisations identify potential risks and opportunities, set quality objectives, and develop action plans to address these issues.

This stage involves gathering data, analysing customer requirements, and defining performance indicators to measure the effectiveness of the planned actions. By adopting a process approach, businesses can streamline their operations, optimise resource allocation, and focus on the right priorities.


During the doing stage, organisations implement the action plans developed in the planning phase. “Do” involves allocating resources, training staff, and executing the planned activities to achieve the desired results.

Managing change effectively is crucial at this stage, as it helps organisations adapt to new business processes and overcome employee resistance.

Proper communication and support from management are essential for ensuring a smooth transition and successful implementation of the planned actions.


The checking stage involves monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of the implemented actions. Organisations collect and analyse data to identify trends and patterns, assess the success of their actions, and compare their results against established goals.

By continuously monitoring performance, businesses can identify areas where they fall short of their objectives and take corrective actions to rectify the situation.


The acting stage is where organisations identify areas for improvement, modify their plans, and implement corrective actions to address any gaps or issues. They also celebrate their successes and reward achievements, reinforcing a culture of continuous improvement and fostering employee engagement.

The PDCA cycle is repeated as organisations continuously refine their processes and strive for excellence in their products and services.

Applying the PDCA Cycle to Your Quality Management System: The Planning Stage

Identifying Quality Risks and Opportunities

Organisations must first identify potential quality risks and opportunities to effectively implement the PDCA cycle within an ISO 9001 Quality Management System. This involves analysing their internal and external environments, considering factors such as customer requirements, market trends, competitor performance, and relevant regulatory requirements. By proactively addressing these issues, businesses can mitigate potential risks and capitalise on opportunities for improvement.

Setting Quality Objectives

Once potential risks and opportunities have been identified, organisations must establish clear and measurable quality objectives. These objectives should be aligned with the organisation’s overall strategic direction and designed to drive product and service quality improvements. In addition, quality objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) to facilitate effective monitoring and evaluation of progress.

Creating an Action Plan

With quality objectives in place, organisations must develop action plans to achieve these objectives. Action plans should outline the specific tasks, responsibilities, timelines, and resources required to implement the planned improvements. By clearly defining the steps and requirements for each objective, organisations can ensure a focused and efficient approach to quality improvement.

Allocating Resources

Effective resource allocation is crucial to successfully implementing an organisation’s action plan. This includes financial, human, and physical resources, as well as any necessary training or support.

Organisations should consider the availability and suitability of resources when developing their action plans and allocate resources appropriately to ensure the successful execution of their quality improvement initiatives.

Executing Your Plan: The Doing Stage

Implementing the Action Plan

During the doing stage of the PDCA cycle, organisations execute their action plans and work towards achieving their quality objectives. Effective communication and employee engagement are essential during this stage, as employees play a critical role in implementing the planned improvements.

Organisations should provide clear instructions, training, and support to ensure that employees understand their roles and responsibilities and are equipped to carry out their tasks successfully.

Managing Change

Change management is a critical component of the doing stage, as organisations must adapt to new processes and overcome employee resistance.

Effective change management involves clear communication of the reasons for the change, the expected benefits, and the potential impact on employees. In addition, organisations should provide appropriate support and resources to help employees adjust to the new processes and systems.

Assessing Results: The Checking Stage

Monitoring and Measuring the Effectiveness of the Plan

To assess the effectiveness of their quality improvement initiatives, organisations must monitor and measure their performance against the established quality objectives. This involves collecting and analysing data related to key performance indicators (KPIs) and comparing the results to the predefined goals. By continually monitoring their performance, organisations can identify areas of success and opportunities for further improvement.

Identifying Trends and Patterns

Through the ongoing analysis of performance data, organisations can identify trends and patterns that may indicate potential issues or areas for improvement. By recognising these trends early, businesses can proactively address potential problems before they escalate and negatively impact product or service quality.

Comparing Results Against Established Goals

Comparing the results of the quality improvement initiatives against the established goals allows organisations to evaluate the success of their efforts and determine whether any adjustments are necessary. If the results fall short of the objectives, organisations should identify the root causes of the discrepancies and develop corrective actions to address these issues.

Taking Action: The Act Stage

Identifying Areas for Improvement

In the act stage, organisations review the results of their quality improvement initiatives and identify areas for further improvement. This act phase involves analysing the performance data, identifying trends and patterns, and determining the root causes of any issues or discrepancies.

Modifying and Adjusting the Plan

Based on the identified areas for improvement, organisations should modify and adjust their action plans as necessary to achieve continuous improvement. This may involve revising the quality objectives, implementing additional measures, or reallocating resources to achieve the desired results.

Implementing Corrective Actions

Organisations should implement corrective actions to address the root causes of any identified issues or discrepancies. This may involve changes to processes, systems, or employee training and should be carried out in a timely manner to minimise the impact on product or service quality.

Celebrating Successes and Rewarding Achievements

As organisations achieve their quality improvement goals, it is important to celebrate successes and reward the achievements of employees. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement and boosts employee morale and engagement, encouraging them to continue striving for excellence in their work.

The act stage marks the completion of one iteration of the PDCA cycle. However, pursuing continual improvement is an ongoing process, and organisations should continue to apply the PDCA cycle to their quality management systems.

By regularly reviewing and refining their processes, businesses can remain agile, competitive, and responsive to their customer’s evolving needs and expectations.


The Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) methodology, as an integral part of the ISO 9001 Quality Management System, provides a structured and systematic approach to organisational improvement.

By applying the PDCA cycle to their quality management processes, businesses can consistently deliver high-quality products and services to their customers, enhancing customer satisfaction and maintaining a competitive edge in the market.

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