Table 1

Description of the plan–do–study–act (PDSA) cycle method according to developers and commentators

Deming (1986)25Original description of the method relating to manufacturingLangley (1996)30How the PDSA method may be adapted for use in healthcare contextsSperoff and O'Connor (2004)33How the PDSA method is analogous to scientific methodology
PlanPlan a change or test aimed at improvement
  • Identify objective

  • Identify questions and predictions

  • Plan to carry out the cycle (who, when, where, when)

Formation of a hypothesis for improvement
DoCarry out the change or test (preferably on a small scale)
  • Execute the plan

  • Document problems and unexpected observations

  • Begin data analysis

Conduct study protocol with collection of data
StudyExamine the results. What did we learn? What went wrong?
  • Complete the data analysis

  • Compare data to predictions

  • Summarise what was learnt

Analysis and interpretation of the results
ActAdopt the change, abandon it or run through cycle again
  • What changes are to be made?

  • What will the next cycle entail?

Iteration for what to do next