How to Use The Deming Cycle for Continuous Quality Improvement

By Adam Henshall

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Understanding quality and seeking to improve it is arguably the core purpose behind undertaking process improvements.

But where did this philosophy of process improvement come from?

One key person is William Edwards Deming – sometimes referred to as Edward W. Deming. He’s principally a statistician, but one could even call him a philosopher of science.

Deming’s goal was to reapply the scientific method to business processes, and has left us with two main variants of his thinking: PDSA and PDCA.

In this article we’ll outline:

  • What the Deming cycle is, with its history
  • How to apply the Deming cycle to improve your business processes
  • The important distinction between PDSA and PDCA
  • How PDSA is employed in the medical field

Deming’s approach is not just about improving processes, but about improving a whole business.

In a recent meta-study from the British Medical Journal, researchers found only 2 out of 73 studies had applied PDSA in a way which fully met criteria. Commenting:

To progress the development of the science of improvement, a greater understanding of the use of improvement methods, including PDSA, is essential to draw reliable conclusions about their effectiveness.

And that’s why we’re writing this article!

What is the Deming Cycle?

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The Deming cycle is a continuous quality improvement model which consists of a logical sequence of four key stages: Plan, Do, Study, and Act.

In the 1920s, the prominent statistician Walter A. Shewhart introduced a model consisting of Plan, Do, See – which can be considered one of the most important early stage process improvement perspectives. Deming saw his own cycle as being the natural continuation of this model.

Deming’s experience training as an engineer gave him an insight into industrial processes and the material reality of trying to standardize operations to function at scale. He later studied mathematical physics which placed him in a strong position to contribute to the growing science of statistics. Deming’s sampling techniques, for instance, are still in use by the U.S. Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

One of the great successes of Deming’s work could arguably be seen as his influence on the Japanese post-war economic miracle; where Japan’s economy recovered from wartime damage to assert itself as the second biggest economy in the world.

In 1950 he delivered a speech to the Hakone Convention Centre in Tokyo on his concept of Statistical Product Quality Administration. The themes of this speech are ones we’ll explore throughout this article, specifically:

  • Having a system in place for continuous quality improvement
  • Reducing defects through higher levels of quality uniformity
  • Understanding what quality should mean within context

Deming’s work expands further into concepts of trade and governance, but we’ll focus primarily on process improvement. If you want to read more of Deming’s perspectives first hand, you can access his text The New Economics on Google Scholar now with the introductory sections open to access.

The Deming Cycle: PDSA


  • Understand your definition of quality
  • How do you know if a change is an improvement?
  • Can you predict your outcomes?

The first Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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