Agile's Approach

‌‌Plan – Do – Check – Act: Lean Six Sigma in UCD

Lean Six Sigma in UCD brings an emphasis on both efficiency (Lean) and effectiveness (Six Sigma), broadly speaking, with the combination of these methodologies resulting in a large range of tools and techniques you can use when looking to enhance or create processes.

Language point:  We often refer to Lean Six Sigma as Lean for short (not being purists), so if you are researching this further yourself bear this in mind.

Two themes we have drawn from Lean Six Sigma, in Agile's first couple of years, is to learn through doing and to look at process enhancemet often being about iterative improvements. You will see this most clearly in Lean's Plan – Do – Check – Act … or ‘how to iterate your way to a better future’.  

The following gives an idea of how this influences Agile's approach.

Plan Do Check Act

Plan:      Decide what you need and what you are going to do‌‌

Do:         Do it‌

Check:   Check and see what happened - did it work, what did you learn, did you get what you wanted

Act:        Cheer “that worked!” and keep on doing it OR “I know how to make it better” and repeat from ‘Plan’

PDCA is a general principle beyond simply a way to enhance a process - it is an approach to developing a solution from an inital idea, to testing assumptions through concrete action, or to gathering the experience to answer a question.  One of the key outputs of PDCA is more learning.

You can see how the PDCA idea expands as follows:

  • get a reasonable starting point - the plan or idea or question or assumtion or process you are looking at
  • decide what you will do to follow thorugh on this
  • decide how you will measure or track what you do
  • do the doing
  • gather the tracking or measures
  • review what happened against what you planned - gather the learning
  • do more to learn more OR stop because you got what you wanted OR change the appraoch and repeat the cycle

Our plan for drawing Lean into UCD began, in March 2016, with an initial phase of a small number of projects with three goals - to practical value through the projects, to being our teaching and skills development, and to learning how to do more in the same vein.‌

Phases over the first 18 months of Agile

In this way, UCD Agile is working on the ‘start small and grow’ basis and is not a monolithic ‘top down’ exercise - it is driven by those with practical needs and ‌problems to solve and it is guided by the learning we gather. The pipeline graphic does not go beyond 2017 at this point – we have a lot of learning to do before we plan for 2018.

These ‘pathfinder’ projects are about our early steps in finding the agility/effectiveness path in UCD – this is our 'learning through doing', our PDCA cycle.

Agile also uses this same plan-do-check-act pattern in how we provide the training and supports for those starting in Lean, in how we develop our supports outside of priojects, in how we develop our web presence (still relatively minimal) and, perhaps most importantly for the long term, how we support Work Smarter Together.

This is how Agile is approaching building our capabilities in this agility/effectiveness space. There are many others across the University busy with making processes better, with bringing about change, colleagues not necessarily connected to the three phases of projects just mentioned. Agile is a resource for all in this space and, hopefully, a repository for the wisdom gained by all.

Where will this all lead? To making UCD a better place to work, teach, research, and learn and to work. 


15 December 2016


We want to hear from you! If you want to get in touch visit our contact page to send us a message.