Plan, do, check, act - how to make successful changes to your business

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Grace Emeny, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager, is leading our SmartHort programme, part of which is helping growers to implement Lean principles into horticulture businesses to improve productivity. Grace explains why small changes are the best way to monitor progress and show success to embed change.

If you’re introducing Lean principles into your fruit picking, pack house lines or workplace organisation, good communication is key to the success of introducing new processes and altering ways of working. Without everyone understanding the reasons for a change being introduced, and why it is beneficial to both the individual and the business, it will be hard to embed new processes. 

Neil Fedden, Fedden USP, Lean consultant for the SmartHort programme, said: “My advice would be to start off with short-term quick wins, demonstrate success to ensure your team is on board, before developing a plan to roll out more widely across your business.” 

The importance of the continuous improvement process ‘plan, do, check, act’ can’t be underestimated. It’s a four-step model that should be repeated again and again to ensure that the changes you are making are making improvements.

What is ‘Plan, Do, Check, Act?


  • Are you going to test a new process or make a change to an existing one?
  • How will you ring-fence a team, area or process?
  • How will you capture data to see if the improvement works? (make sure it is balanced, not biased)
  • What is the control group?


  • Set up a test and train staff
  • Run the test and measure performance


  • Review the performance, did it work, can it be made better?
  • Check with those involved to see how it felt for them? Communication is key!


  • Look for improvements to undertake another trial or implement the change
  • Document the new improved process so that it becomes the standard way of working (if you miss out on this stage, the risk is that you slip back to the old ways of doing things when under pressure)
  • If the improvements did not work the way you expected, what lessons can be learnt and how can the trial be modified to make it work?

In 2019, our three SmartHort Strategic Centres worked with 22 horticulture businesses as they embraced the tasks set as part of the workshops, with some businesses ending the programme predicting likely production efficiency improvements of up to 20%. 

As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, we were unable to hold physical events in 2020, but have instead launched the SmartHort online Lean modules. You can get involved and implement a Lean project within your own business. Recordings from the modules will be available shortly. 

Are you interested in being involved in the SmartHort Lean programme? Would you like to be a future SmartHort Strategic Centre host? Please get in touch to find out more and to register your interest in being a host site, or participating in future workshops -

Gracie Emeny

Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager - SmartHort