How My Daughter's Approach Can Inspire Us All
- PDSA cycles help us test innovative ideas and prove or dissolve risks that could kill the idea.
- Leverage PDSA cycles for faster learning and fewer reworks.
- A grade four student has figured out how to use PDSA cycles; surely adults can too!
My oldest daughter is ten years old and in grade four. She is curious and considerate, and she loves to design, draw, and build. Where I used to play with Tinker Toys at her age, she’s into coding and stop-motion animation.
If you’re unfamiliar, stop-motion video is where you take many, many photos of stationary elements with slight movements between shots. If you are old enough to remember “flipbooks,” this is just the digital version.
It was this weekend’s stop-motion project that made me pause, though. My daughter had a friend over to work on a new video. As I was in the next room cleaning, I overheard some of their conversations and found myself in awe of their process. I quickly recognized it as our Plan–Do–Study–Act (PDSA) cycles of learning.
If you’re not familiar with PDSA cycles, let me provide you with a brief overview. As we test innovative ideas, we’re often faced with unknowns. PDSA cycles help us either prove or dissolve risks that could kill our idea. They are quick cycles of learning designed to help us work through iterations and move much faster to validate or invalidate an innovative concept.
My daughter and her friend were doing this on their own. Granted, at a much smaller scale than what I usually work with. It sounded something like this:
Plan: “We need to make this Playmobil horse appear to jump this barrier.”
(In PDSA this would answer: “What does success look like?”)
Do: “Let’s try holding it by the tip of the tail, move in this motion, and take our pictures from this angle. We’ll then review what it looks like on the tablet.”
(In PDSA this would answer: “What will you do/try to achieve the plan?”)
Study: “What does it look like?” They then watched the section they had just filmed. “Awesome! You can’t see it being held at all. It really looks like the horse jumped the fence!”
(In PDSA this would answer: “Did you achieve the plan? Why or why not?”)
Act: “Okay, we got that part down. Now we can add sound.”
(In PDSA this would answer: “Can we move on, do we need to run another cycle, or did we not achieve the plan?”)
From there, the two of them worked through many more PDSA cycles to complete a three-minute video in less than an hour. The video had six moving elements, plus sound and music.
Why is this relevant? How many of us would have spent more time than that planning for the video before we took a single picture? Once we had developed our plan, how many of us would have taken all the photos before checking how they looked? If something didn’t work right, how much time would we have wasted in rework?
These girls, at their young age, have figured out that by leveraging PDSA cycles they can learn and move faster to finish their projects. So, if a grade four student can apply it as a superpower, surely we can too.
To learn more about PDSA cycles and how they are used, book a chat with us, and let us walk you through it!