August 18, 2012

PDCA psychology – Continues improvement (and kids video games)

True PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act.) is all about the ability to respond to change,  constantly improve, gain sense of ability, change and grow while making forward progress. How can we use it to the benefits of the family?

My kids are now old enough to play video games. This has, of course, got me wondering about the benefits of playing those games, if there are even any benefits.  Well, they have SOME benefit. When you fail, or experience success, or need to get things done to win the game (remember this post?). It’s an excellent example, of what a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act.) is all about.

Well, one day I came across this awesome blog post by Mike Langlois, Failing Better .
There is another aspect of failing in video games that I think we need to pay attention to, and that is the role of autonomy. ….The reality is that mastering challenges and fun failure creates a feeling of optimism, which neurologically and emotionally improves our ability to learn in the future. If we think we are capable of solving a problem, we will keep at it. Therefore, we need to foster a sense of autonomy in learning. The minute we start talking about “my special needs child,” we are taking away their autonomy…The less we stigmatize failure, the more we encourage autonomy and optimism. Autonomy and optimism make you a better learner, a better collaborator, and a better worker. Personally I think the world could use a lot more of that.” Mike Langlois

And I will argue the additional point, that those video games allow the kids to fail over and over again, forcing them to re-plan their steps and try again. Gain more experience and try yet again. Failing again and again just means that you learn how to do it better next time. And each time you re-start the level, you gain in abilities, or power, or wealth. You start from a relatively easy stage and advance to harder and harder stages, journeying through a series of failures, successes and learning.

And so, thinking of the video gaming experience, I think it’s an excellent example, of what a PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act.) is all about. The ability to constantly improve, gain sense of ability, change and grow while making forward progress.
Lets leave the kids playing their video games, and learn a bit about PDCA, and how we can use it in the family.

According to Wikipedia, PDCA (plan–do–check–act or plan–do–check–adjust) is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products. ”
When do we use it?
     As a model for continuous improvement.
     When we wish to implement any change
     When we wish to improve

Plan to do something → Do it →Check and see how it went , Change whatever you think is needed to change →And Act accordingly to the changes.
Then do it again.

Take a task (a small one) and place it on the board:

(I will add the F - for Fun)

When we start using PDCA more and more, it becomes second nature to us. Just like a child playing a video game, failing and checking our steps is something that comes without thinking.
It’s a continues improvement mindset approach.
When done right, I believe that PDCA keeps us in a “capable “mode. It challenges us to solve problems in relatively small portions, allowing us to experience small failures and experience a change to success.
By the way, ‘Failure’ isn’t a bad word; it’s something that when experienced in small doses can be manageable and helps us progress and achieve. ‘Success’, of course, is a great feeling - and we can use this feeling when we make small changes. We don’t need to wait for the big bang process to be completed.

PDCA, when done right, helps us experience controlled success and failures, and most important, helps us feel capable, driven from our experience and the effort we put into ‘doing’. This fuels us to continue, to try solve and change and grow. 
Of course, just as anything else unfamiliar, the theory looks very strict. We just need to experience it, adapt it to fit our needs and improve on it.

So , what is the best way to get into a continues improvement using PDCA?
1.    Don’t forget to have fun while changing .
‘Fun’ usually comes last in my checklists. Not this time. Having fun helps fail better and increase the ability to solve problems now and in the future.
2.    When something is interesting it’s also easier to solve.
PDCA is like a puzzle, so treat it as such. It should be interesting and related to what we want to do. Like in puzzle, we need to try sometimes few times before we figure it out.
3.    Encouraged Autonomy.
In a video/PC game, you start from the easy stuff. You gain experience by failing and retrying (do-check), you learn from your mistakes and try again. Sometimes (most of the times!!!) you become better… even awesome in what you do. But the player manages to do it since he can use the autonomy of the game. This is a very important step in PDCA. Have the autonomy to change, learn and adapt. No change will happen if you aren’t allowed to think by yourself, fail, make mistakes and try again.
4.    Welcome failure as a step toward success.
Don’t expect to succeed from step one. Encourage your family to check things out and try again and again.
5.    Deal with small steps, one thing at a time.
There’s no need to plan, do check and act over massive projects. It doesn’t need to be a long cycle. It can be a daily process of planning, doing, checking and acting. Divide big changes into smaller practical tasks. Pick up one at a time and go with it.
6.    Check – means communicate, talk it over, discuss.
Ask what went well and what can we do differently. You can use the daily gathering for that.
7.    Ease yourself out of your comfort zone.
Do one small thing each day to challenge yourself. Feel uncomfortable once a day, check it out, learn and adapt the next day.
8.    Learning is a curve.
We learn better from experience.
9.    Appreciate the effort of doing.
 It is highly important especially when you don’t succeed.
10.  Visualize.
As always, when you can see the change, it increases the probability of changing and doing.

By the way, to visualize, I take a small enough task , using  sticky notes, place them on the board, run them visually into the PDCA process,  and until people don’t even see the process anymore it’s so innate, I mark the change visually on the board.

Well, I’m off to play some video games. Can’t let my boys grow TOO complacent :)
To read more:
     The steps in each successive PDCA cycle are ( 9001 Quality Management Systems - Requirements. ISO. 2008. pp. vi.)

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