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Following what works is wise – The PDCA Principle in action

10 Apr 2024

WRITTEN BY Anastasia Marinopoulou
International Change Management Specialist
Operational Transformation, Lean Leadership and Teams Trainer
Progress Through Limited
Guest Lecturer at Online MBA
DPCA Principle blog OG

Have you ever heard of the PDCA approach? It might not be the trendiest topic, but its benefits are invaluable, especially in the realms of personal development, teaching, and training.

I am thankful of the fact that Ibe Achimugu, a student on the Alba Online MBA online program chose to present the benefits of this approach during the OMBA Meet UP! event on November 11, 2023.

Reflecting on her insights and my own experiences as a person, lecturer and trainer, I realized just how transformative this approach can be.


The PLAN-DO-CHECK-ACT principle and practice is not unknown amongst the Lean community, the contrary! Moreover, it forms the basis of many project management, quality management and general operations management methodologies and tools including digital versions.

Having had the honour to be trusted to develop and teach the Production and Operations Management module on the online MBA course, the PDCA was one of the most fundamental principles that I emphasised right from the very start. I am not sure how many of us that are on an operations role, follow this principle religiously.


I have created the following image on a general outline of the PDCA approach. Each element on the table has its own PDCA cycle but it is not my intent to teach how the master and concurrent PDCAs should be designed and followed. Instead, I want to present the experience of Ibe, putting the PDCA into daily practice through an interview that took place at the end of November, 2023.




Organisations, teams and individuals are often preoccupied with innovation either improving processes and business models or products and services. In any case, innovation necessitates piloting and ensuring that the final decision will have qualitative and quantitative results. Results in their turn are the corollary of a series of decisions, tasks and behaviours and PDCA supports the thinking and deployment navigation in simple and complex projects, operations and procedures.


However, one of the most important elements of the PDCA approach – often neglected – is the guideline ‘STANDARDISE’ in the ACT stage. Standardising a behaviour, a thinking approach, a decision-making process, a work method are important to achieve Quality and a productive Innovative mindset. The reason is simple: If we fail to standardise, then a lot of energy falls into just ‘value enabling’ innovation and not ‘value adding’ innovation.


 Time now to dive into Ibe's enriching journey for a captivating read


Interviewer: Anastasia Marinopoulou (AB)

Interviewee: Ibe Achimugu (IA)Ibe Achimugu

 Ibe while presenting during the OMBA Meet UP! event


AM: Ibe, first thank you for sharing your insights using the PDCA method. I understand that the operations management module is not amongst those that a student would pick gladly and I also understand that been on an MBA program requires thinking of one’s contribution in the wider business community, and society. Let us start with you and your professional journey.


IA:  Been on the Alba online MBA program means that I have already committed to leaving a positive impact on the world. Professionally, I am currently serving as a Unit Head Gender Mainstreaming and Child Labour Elimination at Arewacotton and Allied Products Limited. I am currently leading projects in cotton farming in Nigeria.

The importance of formal education, experience and the inclusion of women are driving my pursuit of an MBA. Despite substantial project experience, I recognize the need for a certificate to validate my qualifications. The frustration of being unable to make critical business decisions due to a lack of formal education motivates this academic endeavour.

Multiple short courses have equipped me with project delivery and strategy skills, but I aim at bridging the business gap through an MBA. The practical lessons learned highlight my capability, voice, and readiness to earn a place among business leaders and change-makers. I am committed to altering the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by designing inclusive business models that generate job opportunities, food security and a sustainable liveable wage.

Acknowledging the challenges faced by rural women and youths, my pursuit of education extends beyond personal aspirations to impacting communities, breaking cultural barriers, and turning dreams into reality. #EmbraceEquity reflects my commitment to leveraging knowledge for positive change.

During a beneficial insects’ project in 2022, the high price of fertilizer and other inputs, and lack of resources led to a zero-chemical farming model, benefiting over two thousand farmers. Attending the World Resources Forum 2021 sparked my interest in the circular economy, inspiring me to advocate for bio-based solutions.

It was this gap that led me to the ALBA Graduate Business School a very inclusive organisation, with the MBA online course giving me flexibility, the knowledge and the tools needed to make a lasting impact.

PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) holds a central role in creating effective and efficient environments, aligning seamlessly with my philosophy of continuous improvement. I have introduced PDCA to my team and have received positive feedback.

My team consists of four people: Helen, Alex, Emmanuel and Mustapha and we are responsible for promoting sustainable cotton farming.


Produce from 2022 Beneficial Insect Project (KONG: A zero- chemical Initiative)


I wanted to introduce a standard approach to planning even small projects and tasks as well as a thinking approach that includes thinking about what will actually make something to happen (and the opposite), taking responsibility for the outcome.

The ACT stage of the PDCA that includes standardizing and improving was what the team needed for a Continuous Improvement mindset.


AM: What was the most difficult stage to teach and what was more difficult for your team members to follow through?

IA:  The planning stage, as I am still learning myself.


AM: Could you share some feedback from your team members regarding how the PDCA has helped them?

IA:  Helen who is responsible for project administration found that the PDCA has helped her track and correct mistakes in projects, eliminating their repetition. The emphasis on noting amendments facilitates the creation of a comprehensive database for future operations.

Alex who is responsible for quality and evaluation, thinks the PDCA is useful as it helps thinking through what kind of information needs to be collected for a project and appreciates the ongoing nature of the improvement process.

Emmanuel the agronomist has found the PDCA useful for product development projects. He has found the concurring PDCAs within the stages very useful especially for they somehow guide you of what not to miss and what to reconsider.

Mustapha who is responsible for project control has found it useful when thinking through of what can go wrong and the concurring PDCA’s are definitely helpful in making you better at setting targets and planning through.

Overall, the team has recognised the PDCA as a dynamic and iterative thinking and management process that fosters continuous improvement, flexibility, and effective decision-making across different areas of their work.

I am enthusiastic about creating a better future for all, and I am excited to see how much better (and scientifically better) we all work, in my immediate sphere of influence.


AM:  Do you always use the PDCA approach with all the concurrent PDCAs?

IA:  We hope to standardize this approach in future as we all agree on the benefits and accountability it provides. It will enhance resource optimisation because roles are clear and align with the mission, team members contribute meaningfully to the project objectives in a consistent an efficient manner, risks are analysed early to minimise disruption and enhance the team’s ability to navigate them. The monitoring and evaluation of tasks is easier as the KPIs are well defined, project performance can be tracked. The biggest advantage is that can be used as an offline tool accessible to everyone, everywhere, any changes or deviations to the project can be documented.


AM:  Thank you and I am looking forward to hearing how you use the PDCA tool same time next year!

World Cotton Day 2023

ArewaCotton Team,  Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Director-General of the world Trade Organisation), Mr Danjuma Adejo (Nigerian Entrepreneur).

Photo taken during the World Cotton Day 2023: “Making Cotton Fair and Sustainable for All, From Farm to Fashion. Organised by UNIDO”.