Posted by: JC Gatlin | July 28, 2010

Ever feel overwhelmed with PDCAs?

Following-up on an article about managing a full PDCA WIP (Work in Process) from last fall, it’s really hard to tell if we’ve seen any improvement. I asked a few Teammates in construction, sales and production and heard the same answer over and over: “I’ve got a lot of PDCA’s I’m working on, but it’s hard to complete one before starting another.”

One Construction Professional seems to have it figured out. He keeps a problem list, prioritizes that problem list and dedicates time in his schedule to implement counter measures.

1.  Keep a Problem List

That Construction Professional said he’s currently got 11 problems running through the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Adjust) Loop. This means he’s either investigating root causes or implementing counter measures.

“I’ve been listing each problem in a small note book that I can keep in my back pocket,” he said. “And I dedicate one page per problem so that I can write notes while I’m on the jobsite.”

2. Prioritize the Problem List

The Construction Professional categorizes his problems into 3 groups. “When I write down a problem or waste, I give it an A, B or C,” he said. ”A problems require immediate attention this week.  A’s are also PDCAs with counter measures that must be implemented or any PDCA where I’m the group leader. A’s are my priority and I try to limit my A’s to just two problems so that I can knock them out.

“The B Category is for those problems that I need to get to as soon as possible. As soon as I complete an A PDCA, then I pick a problem from the B list. Also, any PDCA that I’m just part of the group and not the group leader, I categorize as a B. I try to limit B’s to about 8 problems.

“Finally my C category has all the problems or waste that I see that I know I need to get to but just don’t have the time right now.  Some of these problems are anomalies or aren’t recurring, so my focus isn’t on it right now. Others are probably symptoms of A and B problems. Also, any PDCA that I need to follow-up on in a few months get categorized a C so that it stays on my radar.”

3. Dedicate at least 2 hours a week to Implement Counter Measures

This is the most ignored and possibly most important step in problem solving. You scheduled time to meet and work through the PDCA steps. You scheduled time to present your PDCA. Now finish it by scheduling time in your calendar to implement the counter measures.

“I schedule 4 to 5 pm every Tuesday and Thursday to work on Counter Measures,” the Construction Professional explained. “That’s when I update SWISes or create Hot Spots or check on how things are going in the houses. If I don’t schedule it, I won’t get to it and then before you know it, I’ve moved on to the next PDCA and the counter measures never get done.”

 Clearly, managing your PDCA WIP can be as challenging as eliminating a recurring problem. To become effective problem solvers, we must start organizing and prioritizing.

© July 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo



  1. JC, Another thing you may want to consider is a kanban system. A Kanban for projects or in your case PDCA. There is a limit to the number of activities we can do at one time. There is an inherent cycle time for these activities. We all have all seen organizations that try too many initiatives to only fall short on all of them. It is better to focus, really solve problems, and move to next activity. The key to this like in production is to limit overproduction and control wip. Don’t release more till you are ready. Determine how many activities you can comfortable do at one time and place others in a buffer. As you complete a PDCA pull another item into the hopper and so on.

  2. Very good advice Tim. Thanks for the response.

    I think the A-B-C categories is a strong step in that direction.

  3. ไคเซ็น (Kaizen) คืออะไร…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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