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Plan-Do-Check-Act: Testing Documentation Validity...


The plan–do–check–act cycle (Figure 1) is a four-step model for carrying out change. Just as a circle has no end, the PDCA cycle should be repeated again and again for continual improvement (see American Society for Quality reference).

Figure 1: Plan-do-study-act cycle
Figure 1: Plan-do-check-act cycle
When to Use Plan-Do-Check-Act

Plan-Do-Check-Act Procedure
  1. Plan arrowRecognize an opportunity and plan a change.
  2. Do arrow Test the change. Carry out a small-scale study.
  3. Check arrow Review the test, analyze the results and identify what you’ve learned.
  4. Act arrowTake action based on what you learned in the study step: If the change did not work, go through the cycle again with a different plan. If you were successful, incorporate what you learned from the test into wider changes. Use what you learned to plan new improvements, beginning the cycle again.

Now Let's Apply this Plan-Do-Check-Act Procedure to Documentation Testing:

  1. Plan arrow Decide upon a procedure in which to test and choose someone who is unfamiliar with the procedure.
  2. Do arrow Have the person you chose to perform the procedure using the documentation.
  3. Check arrow As the person performs the procedure, observe and make notes, or have them make notes about where the documentation instructions are unclear, oversimplified, confusing, or where information is missing. Look for verbiage or buzz words that aren’t easily understood by people that don’t usually perform the procedure; write definitions for any of these terms. Also, look for instructions that are too wordy or overly complicated, there may be hidden tasks or steps that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
  4. Act arrow Rework the documentation using the information obtained during step 3.—the Study step; Think improvement! Here are some suggestions:
    1. Write out definitions once so that the user can easily refer to them;
    2. Keep instructions clear using plain language everyone can understand (3rd grade reading level is best);
    3. Try to keep instructions to a two sentence minimum, otherwise people can become overwhelmed--both by the task to performing the procedure or having to update wordy documentation.
Now you are ready to re-test your documentation for validity. Start over with step 1. and rework the steps until the procedure and its documentation are seamless and anyone can follow the documentation and perform the procedure.


What Is A Process...

Flow-Charting A Process...

Understanding GET-DO-GIVE...

Our Documentation Format & Value...

Developing Meaningful Performance Measures...

American Society for Quality reference...

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