Measuring the success of your PDSA cycle

Picture of Suzie Creighton

Published on 9 April 2020 at 16:30

by Suzie Creighton

Measuring the success of your PDSA cycle - 01

The importance of – and techniques for - measuring test results.


Your Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles (PDSA) will be creating a feedback loop of constant learning and improvement for your quality programmes. As part of this cycle, it’s a really good idea to decide from the outset exactly how and when you are going to measure your success. This will help the planning process and ensure that you know how to proceed at the end of each cycle.  


Why is it important to measure the results of your PDSA cycle?

Simply put, measuring results is a crucial process and can lead to really important quality changes!  If you have robust steps in place to carefully measure the results of your change management test, this can lead to continuous quality improvement within your team.


As part of your quality improvement PDSA, all ideas are taken through the circular process of: planning how the test will be carried out, testing the change and collecting data, evaluating that data, and then either dropping the idea or using the information to run another cycle. So, the evaluation and measuring is vital for your quality improvement.


How do you measure success?

Before you start your first PDSA, you will need to work out exactly how you are going to measure your success.


It’s a good idea to create a clear set of measurements that you can use when you come to evaluate.  These measurements will keep the process agile and mean that you can make each cycle as rapid as possible.


You need to work out exactly how you measure whether a change is an improvement and collaborate with your team members.


If a change is made, this should affect any measures and will show whether the change has resulted in quality improvement. You should therefore be collecting data so that you can demonstrate whether changes result in improvement. These can be updated within your Statistical Process Charts (SPC) which can be found in Life QI.


Once you’ve agreed your measurable outcomes, you can start collecting data – so it’s ready to be analysed and reflected on during the Study phase.


When should you measure the results of your quality improvement PDSA?

The Study stage of your PDSA cycle is the right time to measure. This is a vital part of the testing process and can help guide the team in future decisions. With the QI tools in Life QI this process is relatively simple and there are different types of measurement you may wish to use to aid your quality and improvement decisions.


What are the techniques for measuring your test?

There’s a range of measures you could use to learn from your outcomes. We’ve broken it down into three types of measures:


  • Outcome Measures – these measure how the PDSA ‘impacts’ the outcomes.
  • Process Measures – look at whether the steps in the system are working as they should be.
  • Balancing Measures - looking at a system from different directions.

You can find more information on the Types of Measures here.


You can also look at whether changes designed to improve one part of the system are causing new problems in other parts of the system. If you are measuring the same change across multiple locations, on Life QI, you can aggregate your sources automatically and in real-time to give you the full picture.



Measuring your results is a really important part of your PDSA – and getting this right could really help enhance outcomes for you.


This will mean that you need to set quality outcomes measures before you set out.  From a one-off test of change in a small organization, to a three year long collaborative with 200 sites, Life QI can measure your entire journey.


Do you have any measures you always use in your PDSA? Let us know here. 


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