Ongoing Planning: the PDAR model by Francis Miller

Two of the key ideas behind an internal business plan are:

1. if you understand a business's current position and use that knowledge to plan ahead, the business is likely to be more successful.

2. if you also incorporate a feedback process, you can pick up quickly what's working and what's not working, and then make adjustments to the business's course.

I believe that many business people could become more effective if they incorporated these ideas by using a simple planning and feedback process in their daily activities.

It would allow them to think issues through before they took any action, call up the knowledge they already have and and identify the resources they will need. In addition, the feedback step would allow them to generate new learnings for use in the future.

The PDAR model I have developed is a variant of the PCDA formula devised by W. Edwards Deming, the American quality guru who made a significant contribution to Japan's post-2nd World War recovery. Details about the differences between the two models can be found at the end of the article.

This model can be used for any activity, large and small, from a sales call or a team meeting to a staff appraisal or a brief encounter with a potential client at a party. How long you spend on planning and assessing can vary from 30 seconds through to an hour or more. The time you take will depend on how important the goal is and the complexity of what is required.

The 4-step PDAR model is:

1. Plan
2. Do
3. Assess
4. Respond

1. Plan.

The purpose of the planning step is to decide on your goals, think through what's likely to happen and work out what you actually want to do.

Some of the planning questions you can ask yourself are:

- what is the purpose of your proposed action?
- if you are dealing with a problem, how and why did it arise?
- what results do you want to achieve?
- what useful experience do you have from similar situations in the past?
- what resources do you need eg. time, equipment, involvement/co-operation of others?
- what more information do you need to help you make the best decisions about your goals and actions?
- what different options do you have (often just asking this question will help you generate options, even though you may be convinced that you don't have any)?
- what could go wrong and how can you reduce the likelihood of this happening?
- and finally, after all your planning, what actions are you actually going to take?

2. Do

In this step of the process, you put your planned actions into practice.

3. Assess

It's impossible to assess progress if you haven't got an idea what progress means to you. That's why planning is such an important part of the model.

Some of the assessment questions you could ask yourself are:

- what were the positive outcomes?
- what, if any, were the negative outcomes?
- in general, did you achieve what you wanted to?
- what worked and what didn't?
- why have you got the results that you did?
- how could you have done things differently that might have got you better results?
- do you now need to do things in a different way?
- what have you learnt that will come in useful in the future?

4. Respond

How you respond will depend on the sort of goals you had initially and whether there is further action you need to take immediately. Sometimes your response may just be to put what you have learnt into practice the next time a similar situation arises.

While there are lots of potential questions you can ask yourself, it's best just to try a few questions at first. The simpler you keep it, the more you're likely to use the model, and then using planning and feedback will become a habit.


Deming's PCDA formula stands for:
1. Plan
2. Do
3. Check
4. Act

No's 1 and 2 are the same in my model. I prefer 'respond' to 'check' since the former suggests dealing fluidly with what has arisen whereas checking, for me, suggests something being right or wrong, which may not always be appropriate. Finally, I think 'act' is confusing since it is such a similar word to 'do' so I prefer 'respond'.




© Francis Miller 2001-2008