In order to move organisations from a command and control to a systems thinking logic, Vanguard has developed a version of Deming/Shewhart’s ‘Plan-Do-Check-Act’ cycle (Deming 1982 p88), with the emphasis on confronting managers starkly with the failings of the current system by starting at ‘Check’.

This three step cycle (understand the current organisation as a system, identify levers for change and then take direct action on the system) can be thought of as following the steps Check – Plan – Do. If you know the ‘what and why’ of current performance, you will have confidence in planning and executing change.


Stage in process

What is it?

What does it do?


An analysis of the what and why of the current system

Provides a sound understanding of the system as it is and identifies waste and the causes of waste.

‘Check’ asks:

  • What, in reality, is the purpose of this system?
  • What is the nature of customer demand?
  • What is the system achieving?
  • How does the work flow?
  • What is value work and what is waste?
  • Why does the system behave like this?


Exploration of potential solutions to eliminate waste

Provides a framework to establish what the purpose of the system should be and how the flow of work can be improved to meet it.

‘Plan’ asks:

  • What is the purpose of the system from the customer’s perspective?
  • What needs to change to improve performance against purpose?
  • What measures are necessary in order to gauge improvement?


Implementation of solutions incrementally and by experiment

Allows for the testing and gradual introduction of changes whilst still considering further improvement.

  • Develop redesigns with those doing the work.
  • Experiment gradually.
  • Continue to review changes.
  • Work with managers on their changing role.

And then an organisation should begin the cycle again, returning regularly to Check to see how well things are working from a customer’s point of view.