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Cycle of life: why you need to adopt the PDCA model TODAY

4 min read
by Alena Parfisenko
Don’t you have certain issues in your work process that you’d like to tackle? Ideas that you’d like to implement? Do you have the time to optimize every process manually and work out a special approach to every single one of them? Or are you an actual marketing specialist overflowing with various tasks and looking for the most efficient way to deal with them?
Our guess is that you are indeed a marketer — otherwise, why would you open this article?
Now that this is all settled, let us present you with a solution. When you’re not sure what to do next, when your marketing management is failing you, or when you need to organize the working process and track its efficiency — try PDCA or the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle.

What are you talking about?

The PDCA cycle — also known as the Shewhart cycle, the Deming cycle, the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle, and so on — is a model for the continuous improvement of any process. Many industries have already incorporated it and value its simplicity and efficiency. It’s not that common in marketing, though it works all the same here.
The PDCA essentially is a method of breaking any process down into smaller steps and then applying the four-stage approach to each one of them. It allows for continuous improvement, implementing and testing changes before fully releasing them, and avoiding recurring mistakes in the working process. What are the four stages of the cycle? They’re all in its name, of course.

Stage One: Plan

As with the other stages, this one is exactly what it says: you’ll be planning what needs to be done. During planning, you shape your future steps and the general course of action, so it has to be addressed carefully. To correctly put together a plan, make sure to do this:
Identify and define the problem, the idea, or the opportunity you’re dealing with.
Gather and analyze the data you already have on the matter.
Come up with ideas for tackling the issue and put together the implementation plan.
Figure out what resources you have and need for this task.
Define your goals and set measurable criteria for success.
You want to review the plan a few times, asking the same questions and trying to find its weak spots. Consider the plan established when you can’t generate and answer more questions or find new loopholes. Then, save the final version of the plan and proceed to the next stage.

Stage Two: Do

The next stage is the test itself — after you’ve produced a hypothesis and planned out the execution. Use everything you’ve gathered and planned out previously. The safest option is to create a small-scale project that won’t ruin everything in case your theory was wrong. For example, you can try your marketing idea in some specific area and see how it does.
The reason for trying small-scale first is that at this stage, many things can go south. So ideally your testing scenario should be as easy to control as possible. And whether the test turns out great or horrible, gather all the data and examinations — it’s essential for the next stage of the cycle, where you’re going to analyze it.

Stage Three: Check

One of the creators of the PDCA cycle, Dr. Deming, prefers the other name for this stage — Study. That’s why sometimes you might see the method called PDSA, too. Regardless of what you call it, this stage is arguably the most important in the entire cycle as it defines if the changes are applied.
The Check stage is where you analyze the results of your test and compare them to the goals you’ve established during the Plan stage. If the idea turned out successful, you can proceed to the last stage. However, if the results don’t meet the set criteria, there are two potential outcomes for this idea — or process depending on what you were testing. You need to ask yourself…
Was it a complete disaster or are there just minor issues?
If after identifying the problematic aspects you see that the entire plan is one big problem, you need to take notes of the main mistakes and return to the Plan stage, scrapping everything else.
And if there you find exact issues and want to test your theory again with some minor changes, thoroughly analyze it and restart the Do (test) stage.

Stage Four: Adjust

This stage also has two names: it’s called either Adjust or Act — we’d say, it depends on the outcome of the Check stage.
When you first through the cycle with an idea and the results are perfect — or they just meet your criteria and expectations — you act. You begin implementing the solution and make it the new standard baseline for the brand. However, that’s not the end of the story!
You see, the PDCA is called a cycle for a reason.
Even after the plan and solution become the baseline, you should keep repeating the loop each time you go through the process. You don’t want stagnation — by continuing the PDCA cycle you ensure that your methods keep improving.

Ok, so what’s next?

Now’s the time for you to shine — and for your brand, of course.
By making use of the PDCA cycle method, you will encourage both creative and systematical improvements throughout your entire marketing strategy. Its repetitive nature will not let you down: over time, you will notice how much better the state of your marketing affairs is.
Implement the cycle model today, and you’ll thank yourself for that tomorrow.

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