Embedding PDCA Thinking into Our Visual Management

At a recent Best Practice Network Lean Leaders briefing, one of the amazing line of speakers was expounding the virtues of using PDCA thinking across many aspects of our working lives. As an almost throwaway comment, he mentioned reviewing our visual management through a PDCA lens and it caught my attention and lead me to thinking, how are we doing with embedding PDCA thinking into our boards? Here we will explore what PDCA is, why it’s important to include into our visual management and some examples to support our discussion.

visual control board with PDCA thinking

What is PDCA?

PDCA stands for Plan – Do – Check – Act and is also called the Deming cycle as it was originally created by Deming as part of his Quality improvement process in the 1980’s. It includes a way of thinking to ensure the full cycle of continuous improvement is completed. All too often, we come up with an idea to improve a process or system. Sometimes we get to the step of actually implementing it – which is great. But here the great power of the PDCA cycle is checking and acting on the results that come up for the Check step.

PDCA thinking can be used in many aspects of your business, from the highest level of company-wide continuous improvement, to person reflection on a daily basis. And it’s the reflecting, through the Check phase, and adjusting our behaviour or approach through the Act stage that will lead to the continuous improvement we seek.

Why is PDCA needed in Visual Management?

Building the PDCA cycle into our visual management systems, particularly the checking and acting mindset, helps them to be more effective through continuous improvement. We discussed the importance of considering how we could check a problem has been solved in our Problem Solving article. Similarly, knowing how to judge our daily management as successful will depend on being able to communicate a clear understanding of “Have we had a good day?” with our team. And if we haven’t had a “good day” what actions to we need to take to improve our performance tomorrow? A good visual management system will help our teams answer these questions for themselves, and it will help our leaders know what help our teams need.

Examples of PDCA in Visual Management


Each visual management board includes different aspects of the PLAN phase. These include:

  • Attendance: showing who is available that day, and when others may be away
  • Schedule: sharing your forecast with the team to nearly see the production plan
  • Tee card tasks: indicating the tasks your team has agreed to complete each day

embedding PDCA thinking into our visual management

DO –

Often it is the DO phase that is easily covered by a visual management board. These can be covered in several ways:

  • Task board, schedule or To Do list: allocating resources to jobs, with via people or equipment
  • Tee cards: clearly indicating which jobs need doing and which are complete
  • Job sheets or Work Instructions: outlining job specs

02 PDCA Visual Management Do


Visual management boards are there to help out teams Check their status easily and visually. The elements that may be included here are”

  • Metrics: showing what was achieved and if they met the plan on a regular basis
  • Tee cards: red and green cards allows for an easy check the next day how we went completing tasks and if we need to take additional action today to get any outstanding ones completed
  • Targets met: good metrics make it easy to check if the targets have been met

03 PDCA Visual Management Check


And to close out the PDCA cycle, the Act phase is important to use the information gained through the process to change behaviour. Elements include:

  • Concern strips: once they move to the CHECK, the conner strips highlight further action is needed
  • Top 3 Things: some companies use a “Top 3 things” list on the visual management board to highlight the action that is needed to get back on track

04 PDCA Visual Management Act

Pulling it all together

Great visual management boards have all four elements of PDCA thinking built into them and may be used in combination of all the above mentioned. Now that we have explored what PDCA is and looked at why it’s so important to include this into our visual management, the examples will help you review your own visual management boards and tools. Can you see each of the PDCA phases clearly?  If they are unclear or missing, you can give your friendly TXM consultant a call – it may be time for your Lean check up!

Michelle Brown

Author: Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions.