Deming Circle: What is this business strategy?

In the business world, there are many techniques and strategies to be followed in order to seek success and maximum efficiency.

One of these resources is the Deming Circle, A method that we will explore in this article to know in depth its characteristics, and what makes it a method to keep in mind to achieve the goals that our organization proposes.

    What is the Deming circle?

    The Deming circle, or Deming cycle, is a business strategy with the aim of constantly improving all productive and organizational processes through a circular plan in four phases: first, plan, then do, then check, and finally, act, to return to the first, and so on. It is also known as the PDCA cycle because they are the acronyms for the four phases in English (plan, do, check, act).

    The name of the Deming circle comes from its creator, the American professor of statistics, Edwards Deming. However, in some textbooks the term Deming-Shewart circle can be found, as Edward Deming’s mentor, Walter A. Shewart, was the one who designed the foundation for this mechanism, even though it was ‘the’ student who developed it in depth later, and was initially exported to Japan, throughout the 50s of the last century.

    The key to the Deming Circle’s success is that it is a system based on self-assessment, to find the strengths and weaknesses of the organization itself, So that we can preserve the strong and at the same time design a plan to improve those in which we are currently the weakest, so that in each cycle of program application should have experienced an improvement over the previous experience . This is why this strategy is also known as a spiral of continuous improvement.


      We have already argued that the Deming circle consists of four different phases, which follow each other cyclically, so that in reality the process never ends, because you can always improve a little bitAlthough it becomes more difficult or the improvement is less, of course. Let’s take a look at each of these phases in detail.

      1. Plan

      This is the initial phase of this process. The first thing we have to do is plan, and for that we have to identify any procedures that we believe are not entirely optimal and therefore can be improved. It is also time to set goals that will guide the process, as that will be the ultimate goal that we want to achieve. We must also be clear about the methods we will follow to reach this milestone that we have set for ourselves.

      To identify possible improvements that we can make, different avenues can be followed. One of them is through different work teams. Another would be to find alternatives to the methodology currently used, in search of more efficient methods. It will also be essential to take into account both the requirements imposed by our customers and the policy of our organization, as both entities will mark the red lines inside that we will have to move.

      At this point, it is important to use a planning tool, in order to define a methodology to follow during our production, In addition to designing the processes taking into account the requirements that we have observed. Some of the most used planning tools in the Deming circle are simple brainstorming, Poka-yoke method (Japanese method of avoiding errors), Gantt chart (showing the forecast of the time that will occupy the tasks).

      The QFD method, or deployment of the quality function, could also be usedAnother method that seeks to maximize the quality of the final product by taking into account a number of parameters. Likewise, it is also common to rely on Modal Failure or Effect Analysis, or AMFE, another methodology based on finding possible mistakes that we may make in the production process. These are just a few examples, as there are so many techniques that can be used.

      2. Iron

      The next phase of Deming’s circle is predictable, so it consists of doing everything we have planned in the previous pointSo we would move from theory to practice. It is important to apply the measures that have been decided, to check that this is done and to collect all the data of the procedures, as they are necessary for the next phase. Sometimes it is advisable to start with a series of small changes, or in a specific area of ​​the organization, to check their effectiveness.

      Although this is the most optimal methodology, as it allows us to check whether the proposed changes correspond to what we are looking for and show a successful trend, this is not always possible and, depending on the characteristics of our company, sometimes we will have to impose the changes in the full set of procedures, so we will have to adapt to the changes that are achievable. If you can do the test, it must be representative, in order to be able to extrapolate the results..

      3. Check

      Once the changes we had originally set have been implemented, it is time to check whether they produced the results we anticipated or whether on the contrary we obtained different ones, whether they were worse or better. That is why it is necessary to collect the data that we reported in the previous phase. In order to assess whether the results match expectations, we can use different tools, depending on our needs.

      The simplest is the checklist (the classic checklist). The Ishikawa diagram, or fish tail, could also be used for the shape it generates. It is a Japanese method to graphically show the analysis of a problem and its solution. You can also choose a correlation diagram, to relate some variables of our processes to others. The Pareto chart or ABC distribution is also frequently used to establish the importance of different elements.

      Another method would be the dashboard or the dashboard, Which would show different indicators (or KPI, for its English name, Key Performance Indicators), so that visually, it is easier to analyze the different variables and thus be able to choose between different alternatives. As happened in the first phase, all of these tools are some of the possible tools that we can use, but always keeping in mind that there are more and that we have to choose the one that matches the better for our needs.

      4. Take action

      We have already developed a plan, carried it out and verified its effectiveness. There would be a final phase to close Deming’s circle, and it is nothing more than taking action. This means that once the changes have been implemented and the results analyzed, those which we have proven to be effective should be corrected, taking into account those which have not had the desired success facing the next cycle of the Deming circle, because we have already seen that what is sought is continuous improvement.

      Other authors call it the adjustment phase, and it is that indeed, what we have to do at this stage is to adjust the strategies that we had defined, in order to continue to optimize the processes and thus obtain better results. The important thing is to distinguish this phase from the second (do), since in this one the changes have been applied, and in this one the circle closes, after checking the results of these changes.

      In order to make the improvements, we can use tools like affinity diagram, The goal is to bring together the elements that have a common denominator to be able to organize ourselves more effectively. Another method is that of value analysis, which helps us to discern the value of a given component. We can also count on the Kaizen method, a Japanese formula that seeks to improve through small changes. As always, these are just a few examples, as there are more alternatives.


      Thanks to the Deming circle, the industry applying it can achieve a number of advantages that make the choice of this methodology worthwhile.

      The first of these would refer to production time, Which should generally be reduced, having improved a number of chain procedures, which make it possible to obtain the same product in less time than before.

      also, we would improve the quality, eliminating different errors which they contaminated our production process.

      The third advantage, equal to or greater than the previous one, is that manufacturing costs will have been reduced, Since the Deming Circle seeks to increase efficiency in each cycle in which we apply it, so that once the four phases are completed, we should be able to generate our product or service in a more profitable way than ‘in the beginning. All these reasons are compelling in deciding to apply the Deming circle to our company.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Gupta, P. (2006). Beyond PDCA-A New Process Management. Quality progress.
      • Johnson, CN (2002). The advantages of PDCA. Quality progression.
      • Sobek II, DK, Smalley, A. (2011). Understanding A3 Thinking: An Essential Component of Toyota’s PDCA Management System. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

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