​WFH Productivity: ​Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Gets S**t Done

If you're still struggling with the Coronavirus lockdown​ and can't manage to get your work done in the home office, then maybe your daily routine needs a make-over.

And here's where something called the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle comes in.

Haven't heard of it?

Well, it's incredibly useful if you want to get s**t done and keep your boss happy while working from home. After all, you do want him to trust that you're independent and can get your work done without him jumping up and down on your head, don't you?

So if find yourself lazing around in your PJs, having late breakfasts and watching too many cat videos on TwitFace, it's time you got a better daily routine - and I'm going to show you ​exactly​ how to do it!​​​

How to get s**t done with PDCA


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Choices, Choices...

And now I will give you a choice...

​You can either watch the video below to learn more about how Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycles help us stay productive while working from home or you can read the text instead.

Or maybe you might like to do both - the video is shorter, but there is more detail in the text!

It's up to you...

​*Psst - don't forget to follow my YouTube channel - you'll get lots more videos just like this one!

What Does PDCA Stand For?

PDCA is a method of continuous process improvement that was popularised by W. Edwards Deming in the 1950s and '60s (and beyond). Despite it sounding complicated, it is actually a very simple concept to understand and use in everyday life.

PDCA stands for:

  • ​Plan
  • ​Do
  • ​Check
  • Adjust

​You might also hear it being referred to as the Deming Cycle, the Shewart Cycle (which is what Deming called it, named after his mentor, Walter Shewart) the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle or the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle.

​What Is The Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Model Of Continuous Improvement?

​Deming wanted a way to figure out what caused products or processes to fail to meet expectations, and his solution - the ​Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle - helps you develop hypotheses (ideas) about what needs to change, and then test them in a continuous feedback loop.

​The PDCA Cycle is used for any type of process that you want to improve, and is based on the idea that small but continuous improvements ​compound over time until the process (in theory) cannot be improved any further.

​PDCA cycles are typically used to improve small, bite-sized processes or sub-processes rather than large, complex processes.

How to Work From Home...

​and ​stay productive, healthy and sane

Learn how to balance work-life, home-school the kids and keep your boss happy too!


​Why Is The Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle Important?

​The most important aspect of the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle is that it provides a simple, but extremely effective way of improving ​each small part of any process, even large ones, so that ​small incremental improvements build to large gains over time.

The Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle is meant ​for small steps, and the process gives you a growing sense of confidence ​with each success.

The effects of any failure ​are ​usually small and therefore manageable.

The PDCA cycle is useful in many applications:

  • ​Testing many solutions in small, controlled trials
  • ​Avoiding waste by catching poor solutions in small trials
  • Continuous improvement
  • Developing new processes
  • Improving existing processes


​Measure what you want to improve.

Then you'll know whether you succeeded or failed to meet your goal

Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle Benefits

​The most obvious benefit of the PDCA cycle is one of continuous improvement in processes, but perhaps of greater benefit is the continuous improvement of people​​.​

​You get to test possible solutions on a small scale, knowing that recurring mistakes can be prevented, while improving your overall outcomes.

This gives you confidence to know that whatever ​you're doing, it can be controlled and improved upon.

Other benefits are that the PDCA cycle is versatile and can be used in a variety of different circumstances, it's simple to understand and very powerful in minimising waste and increasing efficiency.

It does have its down-sides, though - as it involves breaking processes down into small, bite-sized steps, it can be slow. As PDCA is an iterative process, it also requires commitment, and that can be difficult to maintain.

​What Are The Four Steps In The PDCA Cycle?

There are four steps in the PDCA cycle; Plan, Do, Check and Adjust, and they form an iterative loop, like this:

The Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle

Starting at the top left quadrant, you progress through the PDCA cycle clockwise by (1) Planning your task, (2) Doing (implementing) your task, (3) Checking the results of the task, and finally (4) Adjusting the task based on knowledge gained.

The PDCA cycle has no end and should be repeated again and again for continuous improvement.

​How Do You Use The Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle?

​The PDCA cycle isn't some kind of abstract concept, it is a real, practical tool that you can use on any process, and there are four phases to follow.

PDCA: The 'Plan' Phase

In the first ​phase of the PDCA cycle you get to create a plan of action. It is here that you lay out everything that you're going to do, how, when and why.

Importantly, you also get to decide how success and failure are to be defined. In the PDCA cycle, the thing you're trying to improve should be measured so that you have some way of deciding whether you have succeeded or failed.

Are you implementing a change to improve time-to-completion by 10 minutes? Then success and failure are decided by a stopwatch.

Are your goals SMART? (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely)

Are your tasks bite-sized enough? Do you have the capability of achieving the tasks? And do you have a benchmark of how well the task was performed last time?

Are you working on the tasks that will make the biggest difference to the process, and are they scheduled in the order that is most likely to lead to success?

PDCA: The 'Do' Phase

In the ​second ​phase of the PDCA cycle you implement the Plan. You go and Do the thing that you planned to do.

This is perhaps the most important step, because if you're not focused on the task you'll likely fail to reach the target.

When implementing the plan you need to focus on the single task set and make sure there are no distractions.

Close the door. Switch off your phone and close your email. Focus on the task and the target.

PDCA: The 'Check' Phase

In the 'Check' phase of the PDCA cycle you compare the results of the 'Do' phase with the benchmarks you set in the 'Plan' phase.

If you succeeded, celebrate and reward yourself! Each success is a triumph and deserves recognition. Your reward might be something simple like a cookie with your coffee or a carrot stick if you're trying to cut down on the carbs! Whatever, the reward is important because it reinforces the positives.

Then ask yourself what you can learn from your successes, and critically, can you repeat them?

On the other hand, whenever you fail you should ask yourself why you failed. What can you learn? Can you prevent this from happening again, and what steps should you make to improve?

PDCA: The 'Adjust' Phase

In the final phase of the PDCA cycle you make changes to your previous Plan based on the things you've just learned in this cycle.

Ask yourself what change might make the biggest improvement in the next PDCA iteration.

This now becomes your new Plan, and you're ready to start your next (adjusted) PDCA cycle.

Plan-Do-Check-Adjust - 4 essential steps to a ​productive #WFH daily routine that gets sh*t done! #pdca #deming #workfromhome #workfromhomelife

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​Is The Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Model Effective?

​W. Edwards Deming has often been credited as one of the inspirations for what has become known as 'the Japanese post-war economic miracle' of the 1950's, when Japan recovered from the devastation of the second World War to become the second largest economy in the world.

This was, in part, due to ​Deming's PDCA cycle.

I think it's fair to say that the PDCA model is an effective tool of continuous process improvement!

The main weakness ​of the PDCA cycle is that it makes the assumption that ​iteration and continuous step-wise improvement will lead to the ultimate process. In some cases it may not.

We can, though, side-step this weakness in the ​Adjust phase by ​pivoting to an alternate process if we feel that persevering with the current process will not lead to the best possible outcome. In this case, we will need a new Plan and a new PDCA cycle rather than an adjusted Plan with an adjusted PDCA cycle.

Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Example

​Let's take the example of your daily routine when you're working from home. If you want to be productive (and keep your boss happy) while remote working, you're going to need a routine that keeps you on track to completing all your work on time.

So let's say you come up with a plan to work from 9am to 5pm, you're going to do 4 blocks of 'serious' work (the most important work), each of which you apportion 1 hour. Into this routine you're also going to add breaks, lunch and blocks of less important work (emails, Skype meetings, watching cat videos on YouTube).

So now you have a schedule for the week. You know which tasks you're going to do, in which order, and they all have start and end times.

Is this the most productive routine for your work?

Are you more productive in the mornings? Do you think you'll complete the most important tasks if you put them all back-to-back in the mornings, then have less pressure in the afternoons? Or maybe the other way around?

For each task you need to have some kind of measurement. Do you want to complete a task in 10% less time? Then get out your stopwatch. Would you like to produce 10% more product? Then you need a way to measure this.

Ultimately, your routine has to be measurable in some way, and when you get to the end of the week you check how effective your routine has been.

Did you get achieve all that you set out to achieve? Did you succeed or fail? Why? What can you learn? How do you adjust your daily routine for next week so that you become more productive?

Whatever you set out out to achieve, if you can measure it you can improve it with the Deming Cycle!

Plan-Do-Check-Adjust Cycle​ - Summary

​The Deming Cycle is a modern marvel. It gives you a way to make continuous improvements to anything you care to improve - as long as you can measure it.

To summarise, the Deming Cycle has 4 distinct phases:

  • ​Plan
  • ​Do
  • ​Check
  • ​Adjust

​First you Plan the improvement you want to make and set out the current benchmark and by how much you want to improve. Then you go out and Do ​your task. When you've finished you measure your result and ​Check it ​against the benchmark and what you expected to achieve. Did you achieve your goal? Can you learn anything from the result? Can you make further improvements? Then Adjust the process and go ahead ​with a new cycle ​and your adjusted goals.

​Laughter is the Best Medicine

​To quote an old Chinese curse 'we live in interesting times', and in such challenging circumstances, we all need to have a little smile or a giggle occasionally.

So give yourself a boost by hitting our 'Awesome Button'

Go on - you know you want to...

​How to Work From Home

I hope you enjoyed this video lesson.

It's actually one of the lessons from our exclusive video course How to Work From Home, where I take you through everything you need to know to increase your productivity, whilst staying physically and mentally fit in your home office.

This course is Open Access to start with - you don't even need to register!

As part of the course you'll get an Ultra-HD pdf of the mind map of How to Work From Home to download and keep, and I'll share with you where you can also get your own poster to pin on your wall.

If you want to continue learning, you can start from the beginning here:

How to Work From Home...

​and ​stay productive, healthy and sane

Learn how to balance work-life, home-school the kids and keep your boss happy too!


I look forward to seeing you on the inside!

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Lee Baker