Continual improvement of business practices is critical for any ambitious enterprise. Adhering to a four-part management method makes the process simpler and the results more consistent. These steps, known collectively as the OPDSA cycle, facilitate a detailed analysis and constant improvement that separates good businesses from great ones.

  1. Observe

Before you can take action, you need to have a comprehensive understanding of your current practices. Analyse every aspect of your operation and compile a list of what works well and what doesn’t. Knowing the positive elements of your business means that you can learn from them and apply the successful practices to other areas of your organisation.

It’s important to gather as much detail as possible before proceeding with the analysis cycle, so be patient and dutifully collect all the data you can. Create a report on the condition of your business so that you can refer back to it whenever necessary.

  1. Plan

Once you’ve gathered enough data, you can start to formulate a plan. Refer to your observations and list each element by how much it impacts the profitability of your enterprise. Prioritise your biggest issues and address them first. Create a structured plan of action that attempts to improve upon the most wasteful and inefficient areas of your business.

Streamline your practices wherever possible and plan to invest in new technology or training if you think it’ll be beneficial. Every change you plan to make should be designed with an end-result in mind, so don’t alter more than is strictly necessary.

  1. Do

Now that you have a plan, it’s time to put it into action. Work your way through and implement the changes as soon as you can. Ideally, you should allocate a set amount of time to make the changes so that you can reduce the impact on your operational output as much as possible.

It’s important to consider the collection of data when implementing your changes. Gather as much information about the actions you’re taking as you can so that you can easily analyse the impact they have. Be prepared to commit significant resources to the work in order to maximise the efficiency of your efforts, and minimise the drop in productivity during the transitional period.

  1. Study

Once the changes have been made, it’s vital you know the affect they’ve had. Cross-reference the observations you initially made with the newest data available to you. Compare and contrast the information to get an empirical view of the fruits of your labour before asking for informed opinions from the staff and colleagues that are directly impacted by the actions taken.

Analysis of numerical data is a great way of gaining an objective measure of success, but it often only paints half the picture. The experiences of individuals in your organisation, as well as relevant customers or clients, should also be taken into consideration when assessing what’s worked as intended and what’s failed to meet expectations.

And another thing – Act!

After dissecting the results of your changes, you need to adapt and improve any areas that need addressing. There is always room for improvement, so the cycle continues regardless of how encouraging the results of your analysis may be. Act decisively upon any undesirable consequences of your changes.

If the successful changes you’ve made have only been applied to a relatively small section of your operation, now is when you should roll them out to the rest of the organisation where applicable. If your actions haven’t been successful in improving your output, then it may be prudent to reverse the changes and revert to the prior arrangement of your business practices.

The OPDSA method is a cycle, so once you’ve worked through the process it’s necessary to start it again before making further changes. The cycle can, and should, be applied to many different areas of business where the goal is to improve your practices, increase efficiency and maximise profits.

At Four Business, we believe complexity slows you down and simplicity speeds things up. We can help you streamline operations. Why not give us a call on +44 (0) 800 6250 025 to find out how we can help.