How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions with a Personal PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions with a Personal PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act)

By Discovery Lean Six Sigma

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It’s okay to admit you are feeling a bit of anxiety. Maybe even a hint of dread.

The New Year is upon us, and with it all the optimism about making improvements in your life. But along with that optimism is a little bit of anxiety – maybe a lot of anxiety – that there is no way you will actually make those improvements.

You dread repeating the mistakes of the past, where resolutions for the New Year ended up discarded by February. That didn’t really show a lot of resolve.

You’re Not Alone

Whatever the situation, it’s always good news to hear you are not alone. In the case of New Year’s resolutions, you are really not alone.

Numbers on the success of New Year’s resolutions vary, but none of them are good. A few years back, U.S. News & World Report reported that 80% of all New Year’s resolutions fail. Others have reported the number at more like 92%.

Not good.

What to do? As usual, Lean and Six Sigma offer answers, but it takes discipline and commitment on your part. However, the steps are all there for your use. Perhaps none can work so well as PDCA, which stands for plan, do, check, act.

Businesses use it to focus on specific issues within an operation, trying to make it more efficient and effective at producing superior products.

Aren’t you trying to create a superior product with your resolutions? Isn’t a more efficient and effective you the goal of your resolutions? Maybe a personal PDCA is exactly what you need.

Using PDCA to Keep Resolutions

In business, the goal might be to improve profit by 10% or cut the time needed for a task in half. But successful businesses don’t just set those goals and then haphazardly work toward them with no plan. Success is in the details. Businesses focus on one step at the time. Small steps for improvement taken each day lead to big success down the road.

Lean and Six Sigma revolve around that idea. The same can be said for resolutions. PDCA can help.

Developed by Dr. W. Edwards Deming, PDCA is a four-step, continuous process improvement strategy. The word continuous is important. The whole point of a New Year’s Resolution is that it is sustainable forever.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, eat healthier, manage money better, get out of debt, further education and get a better job. Here’s how a PDCA can help you focus on one of those (because you should just focus on one or two things for the New Year – small steps!).

Let’s use losing weight as an example, because who doesn’t want to do that?


The idea of the plan stage is to think the issue through, define the process that needs to be improved and develop the best plan to achieve your goal. This is where you need to spend the most time.

Let’s say you want to lose 30 pounds. One plan is to crash diet, cutting your daily calorie intake in half, and quickly drop 10 pounds. But that’s not a good plan because it’s not sustainable, unless you think you can crash diet every month for the rest of your life (you can’t).

A better plan is to expand the time. You’re not on a mission to change yourself tomorrow. It took you years to develop habits that led to gaining weight. You can’t undo them in a week or a month.

Instead, plan to lose those 30 pounds over all 12 months of the year. That means losing about half a pound a week. Suddenly, it seems doable.

The process, in this case, is your daily intake of calories and the frequency of exercise that leads to calorie loss. You need to look at the current process (which likely is high on calories and low on exercise) and develop a plan to change that. Common steps would be:

  • Eliminate or reduce snacks
  • Eliminate or reduce sweets (cut down after meal sweets to once a week rather than almost every night, for example)
  • Add a daily walk of 30 minutes to an hour
  • Add more vegetables to your meals each day


Now you must commit to the plan and take the actions that will lead to losing that half pound a week. You’ve planned ahead on the initial steps you will take. You’ve done the grocery shopping. You’ve found a nice place to take that daily walk.

Now, you start doing these things. In a short time, you will find out what the hardest thing to do is – maybe you can’t stand eating that broccoli you bought or there are annoying, barking dogs along your walk route. Whatever the issue, the first plan will not work completely the way you wanted.

In the Do step, you are measuring the performance of all elements of the initial plan and determining what is working and what isn’t.


In this step, adjust the things that are not working and can keep you from reaching that weight loss goal. The Check step involves taking the information from measuring the success of the steps in the Do phase and adjusting. You want to change the actions that are hindering your chances of achieving your goal.

Buy carrots instead of broccoli, for example. Find a new path to walk where you aren’t hounded by barking dogs. If you snack while watching TV, maybe you need to eliminate TV watching for now.


In this phase, you put into place the changes needed to reach your goal that you found during the Do and Check phases. This is Plan 2.0. You are putting an adjusted plan into place, incorporating the things you’ve learned in the Do and Check phases.

You then move through the Do and Check phases once again, adjusting as needed. The process is a continuous cycle.

Losing 30 pounds over the course of a year is difficult. So are many resolutions. That’s why most of them fail. But if you put a plan into place like PDCA, you stand a better chance of success in the long run. And the long run is what counts.

The post How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions with a Personal PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) appeared first on Six Sigma Daily.

By: admin
Posted: January 8, 2019, 9:01 pm

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