Perseverance & PDCA

By Ron Pereira Updated on April 18th, 2013

“Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

The ability to persevere through the tough times we experience as lean and six sigma practitioners is extremely important.

In fact, the ability to persevere through the tough times we experience as human beings is also important.

But, unfortunately, perseverance alone isn’t eough.

Not Enough

You see, in order to find success at work or home we must also continuously turn the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) wheel.

  • We must seek to deeply understand the problem or problems.
  • We must have the courage to relentlessly attack these problems knowing full well many of our countermeasures won’t work.
  • And once we discover a successful countermeasure we must seek to understand why it worked.

Definition of Insanity

Put another way… perseverance without PDCA is similar to the definition of insanity whereby one tries the same thing over and over expecting different results.  Not only is this a painful way to live our lives… it will indeed drive a person mad!

What do you think?

Do you agree with my thinking here?  Can perseverance succeed without some form of problem solving?

And what about PDCA without perseverance… can that work?  What do you think?

  1. Alan Johnson

    March 13, 2012 - 11:10 am

    Great post and timely as I am struggling with some work and home related problems.

    The thing I am not sure of is your last question. Can PDCA work without perseverance? To me PDCA by itself is built on a foundation of perseverance so I suppose I answered my own question. No, PDCA cannot succeed without an attitude of perseverance.

    • Dave Gaffney

      March 14, 2012 - 10:53 am

      I agree in large part with your opinion. I do however feel there is a slightly different quiestion that could be asked.

      Can process improvement work without perserverence? There is a difference in process improvement and PDCA. Process improvement occurs all the time without the formal PDCA cycle. Organizations, families, teams, etc. with cultures that promote, support, and if needed educate members in managing crucial conversations engage in process improvement non stop. They rarely call it process improvement and define it simply as success. In this culture of sucess, process improvement doesn’t require the same level of persistence because there is really no other way to operate.

  2. Mark Welch

    March 14, 2012 - 7:15 am

    Well-said, and nice reference to Hebrews, Ron.

    Hmmmm… Can PDCA work without perseverence? I don’t think it can work without at least a little perseverence – enough to persevere throughout the PDCA cycle diligently at least once, assuming we nail a problem on the first attempt, which in my experience is rare. Overall, though, my vote goes toward PDCA needing a LOT of perseverence.

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, and I may be off a little on the exact words, or circumstances, but it’s from Thomas Edison and I believe it’s about his efforts on developing the light bulb. “I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

  3. Rob

    March 14, 2012 - 8:44 am

    When applying the PDCA approach I’ve often found that people who are unused to using the cycle get confused over the “Do” and “Act” stages, primarily because they mean similar things in English. For example, “Do” can be defined as: perform or carry out (an action) and “Act” as: take action; do something; so I sometimes substitue the word “Improve” instead of “Act” for clarity.

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