SISEP eNotes: August 2015

Date Published: 2015-08-04


SISEP eNotes

Notes, News and Discussion from the
State Implementation & Scaling-up of Evidence-Based Practices Project

August 11, 2015

Improving on Purpose with the PDSA Cycle


Having an improvement cycle process is imperative to helping us identify challenges, solve problems, improve practices, and create hospitable environments for new ways of work. However, did you know that the majority of users do not follow through a full PDSA cycle? (Taylor et al., 2014)  How can we move from tinkering with change to improving on purpose?

Implementation teams use improvement cycles to change on purpose. Most improvement cycles are based on the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycle.  Here is a quick breakdown of a PDSA cycle.

PDSA Cycle



Clear vision and methods to initiate change and manage change



Do what you intended in the plan



Collect information and analyze



What worked or create a new plan



Continue until goals are reached

So, a PDSA “cycle” includes all four steps, as well as repetition until the goal is reached, or the problem is solved. To be effective, improvement cycles must be used intentionally, systematically, and purposefully.

The SISEP Center uses several different forms of improvement cycles to accomplish purposeful change, including:   

  • Rapid‐cycle problem‐solving
  • Usability testing
  • Practice‐policy feedback loops
  • Transformation Zone(s)

We encourage your team to learn more about improvement cycles on the Active Implementation Hub with the links below.  

Get Started

  • Activity 5.2: PDSA – Who Am I?
    Implementation Teams use PDSA Cycles to help them make meaningful changes, alleviate barriers, and achieve expected outcomes. This activity is designed to help you understand your PDSA strengths, recognize strengths in others, and identify potential team gaps.
  • Lesson 6: The PDSA Cycle
    This online lesson describes the key components in each PDSA Cycle phase and identifies why and when PDSA Cycles are used for rapid cycle problem solving in active implementation.  After the lesson, you should be able to apply a PDSA Cycle to engage in rapid cycle problem solving as a Team.

Get Better

  • Activity L6.1: Apply the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle in your work
    The purpose of this activity is to provide you and/or your Team with the “space” to discuss and reflect on the components of the Plan‐Do‐Study‐Act Cycle (PDSA) and apply it to your work.
  • Module 5: Improvement Cycles
    Improvement Cycles support the purposeful process of change. Implementation Teams use Improvement Cycles to change on purpose. In this module you will learn about Improvement Cycles and how to begin applying them in your setting.

Read More

Taylor, M. J., McNicholas, C., Nicolay, C., Darzi, A., Bel, D., & Reed, J. E. (2014). Systematic review of the application of the plan–do–study–act method to improve quality in healthcare. British Medical Journal of Quality and Safety, 23(290-298).

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