THE KEY STAGES OF THE PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT (PDCA) CYCLE
This is the first stage of your PDCA cycle and involves creating a framework from which the rest of your project operates. It equates to Clause 6: Planning in your ISO standard. You may choose to take a step back, think about where your business currently is and where it needs to be and decide what needs to be done. If you’ve decided that your business needs an ISO standard such as ISO 9001 for example, this stage is where you need to read and understand the requirements of the standard so you can prepare to implement your Quality Management System and also how you maintain it so that your certification can be maintained.
During this stage it’s vital that you identify any risks that could impact your business as part of implementing the project. Try to think about both large and small risks and what consequences these could have on your business, and also consider what needs to be implemented to mitigate any loss.
Finally, the planning stage should include the goals which need to be achieved, in addition to showing the best ways of meeting them.
Common questions asked during the planning stage are:
What is the core problem that needs to be solved?
What resources are needed to overcome the problem?
What resources are currently available?
What’s the best solution currently available?
What are the goals/objectives?
This is the stage when your plan is executed. It equates to Clause 7: Support and Clause 8: Operation in ISO standards. It’s important to ensure all your employees have the correct training and equipment needed to implement the plan to the best of their ability. You may find it easier to break this stage down into smaller steps, such as staff training, implementation, and finally insight recording for any future evaluations.
During this stage, which equates to Clause 9: Performance Evaluation, it’s vital to ensure that your plan has been implemented as originally designed. In the process of auditing, it’s imperative that you document everything you can so that you have the evidence needed in case you need to make amends during the final stage - and to provide evidence to the auditor.
The final stage of the PDCA cycle is where you review the successes and failures you’ve encountered and learn how to improve going forward. It equates to Clause 10: Improvement. The evidence you have gathered during the check stage is important here, and in order to obtain and maintain ISO certification, you’ll need to show during this stage that you’re implementing any findings and improvements to ensure you achieve continuous improvement.