Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle

Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle

There are a lot of models for process improvement out there.

Some have more steps than others (e.g., Six Sigma), and people will often tell you that one approach is better than the other. Regardless, it’s much better for a team to pick one approach and stick with it, rather than combining various methods.

The Plan-Do-Check-Act model can be applied to almost any management system, and at its core, is a simple process for continuous improvement or solving problems. It’s widely used in a variety of national and international standards, including ISO 22301: Business Continuity Management Systems Requirements.

The iterative Deming cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act.

Figure 1: The Deming cycle

The PDCA cycle is iterative, working in a loop rather than an end-to-end process. The goal is to get better on each improvement in an ongoing process of learning and growth.

The Plan phase is designed to establish business continuity policy, objectives, targets, controls, processes, and procedures relevant to the business continuity programme, and deliver results aligned with the organisation’s overall policies and objectives.

Here are some questions you might want to consider during the Plan phase.

  • What problem do you need to solve?
  • What information do you need to understand the problem and its root cause?
  • How likely is it that you can solve the problem?
  • What solutions are available to you?
  • How will you measure success?

In the Do phase, you’ll develop and implement a solution, decide upon a measurement to gauge its effectiveness, test the potential solution, and measure the results.

Once you have your plan of action or your potential solution for a problem, test it. The Do step is the time for you to put your initial proposed changes to the test. However, this should be seen as an experiment. It’s not the point at which you’re fully implementing a solution or process change. As such, this phase should be conducted at a small-scale in a controlled setting. It should not be impacted by external factors or disrupt other processes and operations of your team or organisation. Of course, the whole point of this phase is to collect data and information on the impact of the test, as this will inform the next stages of the process.

The Check phase includes monitoring and reviewing performance against business continuity policies and objectives, reporting the results to management and authorising actions for remediation and improvement.

Here are some questions you might want to consider during the Check phase.

  • Did the plan work?
  • Were there any hiccups in the process?
  • What steps could be improved?
  • What steps could be removed from future iterations?

The Act phase covers maintenance and improvement of the business continuity management system by taking corrective action based on the results of the management review, and re-appraising the scope of the system, business continuity policies and objectives.

Here are some questions you might want to consider during the Act phase.

  • What resources do you need to implement the solution at full scale?
  • What training is needed?
  • How will you measure and track performance?
  • What lessons have you learned?
  • Are there opportunities for improvement?

Once the team decides on the changes that need to be made to improve the process, then the whole cycle starts again.


In this Course, you will learn about what it takes to implement your business continuity plan, which covers a wide range of activities for BCM owners to follow. You’ll later turn your attention to disaster recovery (as part of BCM), and how to document, test and communicate your plans. You’ll end this Course by looking at a common approach to understanding how business activities will be affected during and following a disruption, called Plan-Do-Check-Act.

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