Reasons to use a PDSA cycle in your work environment

Picture of Suzie Creighton

Published on 9 April 2020 at 16:06

by Suzie Creighton

Reasons to use PDSA cycles - 01

Why should I use a PDSA cycle?

A Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle is a four-step model for improvement and is often used to provide a framework for quality improvement changes.


A PDSA allows you and your team to rapidly test out small changes and build on your successes. Running PDSAs also gives stakeholders the opportunity to see if proposed changes will succeed, while providing a powerful tool to learn from ideas, establishing what does and what doesn’t work and enhancing team collaboration.


PDSA cycles can be used to run all sorts of different tests and changes. From small scale tweaks to large scale operational changes – all can be put to the test for the greater good and quality improvement.


I’m interested in trying out a PDSA – but why do I need to test a change?

There are a number of reasons that you might wish to test a change. When you have got your team together and you are ready to start the PDSA cycle, you may be wondering how to go about this in the best way. Hopefully you will have had a chance to read some of our PDSA blog articles, if not this blog is a great place to start, How to plan your PDSA cycle as a team. If you are using Life QI already, you can expect to find some great examples to help shape the work you do.



Reasons to test your change:


To back up belief in change

One of the main reasons to test - and to start your PDSA - is to back up the belief that your change will lead to quality improvement within your organisation.


If you test the theory, you will have results and data that can be collated, shared and evaluated within the Study phase. Your tests will provide you with the tools to move forward and to make a decision based on their success as to whether to adopt, adapt or abandon.


To work out just how much improvement you can expect from your test

A PDSA will help you to evaluate how much improvement you can expect, by using careful evaluation and methodology.


To decide whether the proposed change will work in your environment

You might have decided on some really great change ideas, they have worked in other environments and led to quality improvement elsewhere, now is the time to test them to see if they will work in your setting.


 To evaluate costs that might be involved in your proposed change

Carrying out your PDSA could also help work out what costs might need to be met if your cycle is successful. Will you need more team members? What are the cost implications? These are all questions that you will be more equipped to answer once you have carried out your first test.


To minimise resistance once you are ready to implement changes

You may well come up against resistance to changes you want to make – so testing them out first to gauge success and reaction will help reduce resistance going forward and prepare people.  


To decide which combinations of changes will have the desired effect

If you are planning on carrying out more than one PDSA cycle at the same time, you can use your first PDSA test to work out which combination will work best going forward.


That’s great – I’m ready to start my first PDSA!

There’s a wide range of reasons to carry out a PDSA or a cycle of PDSAs, as they can really help bring about quality improvement – as well as enhancing the way that you work within your setting. People can sometimes react against change, but the more that you prepare people for potential quality improvement changes – for example using a PDSA test – the better. Using the QI tools in Life QI, you can measure your results, you can get hints on tips on how to run your cycle and you can gain valuable experience and feedback from other quality improvement experts from across the Globe.



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