PDSA, or Plan-Do-Study-Act, is a systematic, four-stage problem-solving model used to gain knowledge about improving a process or carrying out change.
Assemble a Team
Recruit a team with knowledge of the problem or opportunity for improvement. Identify roles and responsibilities, establish timelines, and develop a meeting schedule.
There are three fundamental questions that must be answered:
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- How will we judge improvements?
- What changes can we make?
Understand the Current Process
An understanding of the current system is vital to process improvement. Creating a process flow can be particularly helpful in finding where in the system the problem occurs, allowing the team to narrow its focus.
Understand the Problem
State your goals and use the gathered data to measure how well those goals are or are not being met. If more than one problem has been identified, explicitly prioritizing them helps to keep the team’s attention where it is most needed.
You need to identify the causes of the problem, and any alternatives to the current process. Compare the alternative processes to find the one(s) that will be best able to help efficiently reach your goals.
Design an Action Plan
Your plan of action should include necessary staff and resources, as well as a timeline. It should also account for any risks that might be faced by the plan’s implementation.
Choose an alternative (or a few alternatives) that you believe will best help you reach your objective and maximize your resources.
Develop an action plan, including necessary staff/resources and a timeline. Account for any risks from implementation of the plan.
Implement your action plan, being sure to gather data along the way. Make sure you document all issues and unexpected side effects.
Compare the data gathered during Stage 2 with your goals. Establish whether or not the change resulted in an improvement, and measure the extent of any improvements. Check for unintended side effects and determine if they were positive or negative effects.
If the change was not as successful as you had hoped, or if the team believes that a different change would be a better improvement, return to Stage 1 and develop a new plan of action.
If the change was determined to be a success, standardize the improvement. After some time, you can return to Stage 1 and investigate the process to see how it can be further improved.