Overview of the Deming Cycle

Overview of Deming Cycle

The Deming Cycle is a lean management model, developed in the 1950’s by Dr William Edwards Deming. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Plan – Do – Check – Act’ (PDCA) model because of its stages; it can be used for two purposes. Firstly, it is employed to identify and fix issues within the process which cause customer satisfaction. Secondly, it is used to improve processes by way of continuous development.

There are four logical steps that make up the Deming Cycle:


Planning is a large part of the cycle. Here you will identify, in detail, what needs to be done. The plan is usually made up of small steps and may need to be revised several times before enough information has been completed to proceed.

When planning you should consider some basic questions:

  • What problem do we need to solve?
  • What resources do we have/need?
  • How can we best solve the problem with the resources available?
  • How will we measure success?


Once the plan has been agreed, you can put it in to action. Despite the thorough planning however, you may encounter unexpected problems. Ideally, your plan will be tested on a small scale and within a controlled environment. Issues can be minimised by standardising the plan and ensuring that each team member is clear on their role and responsibilities.


Checking the plan and execution is perhaps the most important step in the process. You are undertaking this process due to a recurring issue, or to make improvements; to not check that the plan has been successful is simply a waste of precious time and resources.

Once the plan has been executed an audit can be conducted to check that it worked according to the plan. Checking can help to improve any parts of the process that maybe didn’t run as smoothly as you were anticipating, or, if something went wrong, you can analyse why this happened and determine the root cause of the issue.


Once your plan has been developed and checked, it is time to put it into action. This isn’t where the process ends however. The Deming Cycle is a continuous loop without a beginning or end. The new process becomes the baseline, and you should continue to seek improvements to make it better for both the organisation and your customers.

When should the Deming Cycle be used?

There are several situations where the Deming Cycle can be of benefit:

  • Beginning a new improvement project.
  • Improving the design of a product, service or process.
  • Implementing change.
  • Defining repetitive work processes.
  • Working towards continuous improvement.


Greater efficiency

As the Deming Cycle can also be used to improve processes rather than just fixing issues, it brings greater efficiency to the organisation which improves the planning of strategy development and detection of faults.

Competitive advantage

Employing continuous development in your processes will give you a distinct competitive advantage over your competitors who are happy to continue doing things as they have always been done. Improving your processes and, as such, your efficiency will lead to cost savings and increase customer satisfaction.

Risk mitigation

When employing the Deming Cycle, you are continually trying to identify issues in the process. Any issues that are found are therefore caught early, can be analysed and improvements tested out. Working in this way ensures that issues do not continue and cause loss to your organisation.

Risk is also lessened as any changes can be tested out on a sample before they are implemented on a larger scale.

Sets standards

As the Deming cycle is a repeatable process which can be used as many times as it is needed to address an issue, it becomes a standard-setting tool. Having a standard process to address issues will enable the staff in your organisation to understand what role they play in problem resolution.


Corporate buy-in

The Deming Cycle requires all staff to be involved in the process. In organisations where this is not standard practice, a shift in corporate culture may be required.

Doesn’t solve urgent problems

As the Deming Cycle is a multi-step process that can require numerous instances of analysis and testing before the plan is implemented, it is not suitable for issues that need to be solved urgently.

If you work on recurring projects, then the Deming Cycle is a valuable tool to control and continually improve your processes. Keeping the customer satisfied, the process as lean and cost effective as possible, and your staff, who are involved in the whole process, motivated.