Plan, Do, Check/Study, Act
Deming cycle or Shewart cycle related to learning
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9 October 2009
This comes from quality theory but could be about learning.
The Japanese call this the Deming Cycle but Deming credited Shewart. It is a management approach to planning improvement, doing it, checking or studying the result, and acting on policy or intention.
Ishikawa used Check, following Shewart but Deming changed this to Study. I am not sure what the Japanese words are or how the difference is understood. What I find hard to explain is how the Japanese used the ideas apparently from Deming and why they have not really worked that well in the USA or UK. There is something about the social context or philosophy that influences how quality policy functions. Quality circles have more or less been forgotten in USA and UK but continue strongly in Asia.
The Four Days with Dr Deming book is based on seminars in the USA between 1981 and 1983 including material from Japan in 1950. Ishikawa (1985) has a slightly different approach and challenging views on why quality circles would probably not work outside Japan. Shiba and Walden (2006) show PDCA as part of a case study on NIMS, part of NEC in the 1980s.
I have included a reference to Wilkinson and Wilmott (1995) as this book is still the biggest block on connecting ideas about quality and management learning. The introduction recognises that Ishikawa emphasizes the importance of employee involvement but questions whether this is principally a way to raise productivity (page 16) .They claim that wider issues are not examined withing the quality literature. I find though that Ishikawa raises some fundamental issues. He suggests that Christians believe that "man is by nature evil and this results in Western mamangement assuming that employees cannot be trusted. The translator, David J. Lu, has an introduction disagreeing with this. Whatever could be argued at this time about religious belief, Ishikawa is not offering a simple prescriptive text.
Wilkinson and Wilmott do not consider The New Economics published in 1993. The 'System of Profound Knowledge' supports the PDSA approach. I have shown this as a link as much of the book is available online.
Also there is a link to the Experimentality project at Lancaster IAS. PDSA may fit in with this at some point. If a workshop gets this far there could be discussion around Action Science ( see book ref) and the "Knowledge Creating Company" (see Nonaka ref). American pragmatism is a base for Deming ideas. Why they seem to work more readily in Asia is not easily explained but is a question worth asking.
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