Why is planning such an important part of a PDSA cycle?

David M. Williams, PhD, Improvement Advisor, TrueSimple

Well, I think it’s all important, obviously — the four elements. We always say we want to make sure people go through the full cycle. That’s critically important. But for me, a lot has to do with the planning phase because that’s the time where you really sit down and say, “I have a theory. I think that this change is going to make a difference.”

And then you also — if you do it well — add a prediction to that. I say, “My theory is that this change will make a difference, and I’m making a prediction that it will make this much of a difference.” Or, “I’m going to make a prediction that it will change the way that this process happens.”

So then, when you go to do your plan, you’re following through on something you’ve built with some thought. You’re not just trying things without any kind of consideration beforehand. And, as you stop and reflect on what happened, you’re going back to that theory, going back to that prediction, and you’re marrying them up.

In my experience, you discover a great deal more because you don’t just think about what you saw when you did your plan; you also think about what you thought you would see and what you expected, and you compare the difference. That to me is a really important piece of the PDSA cycle.