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What is a Cycle Diagram and When Do You Use It?

Written by: Ivonna Cabrera

May 05, 2022

cycle diagram

Cycle diagrams can be used to portray various processes that develop in a repeating cycle.

They are best used for visualizing repetitive steps or events and their sequence and progression.

This article will tackle the definition of a cycle diagram, its types and uses, and how you can create one.

You will also get tips on how you can use Venngage’s Diagram Maker to create a cycle diagram that is clear, engaging, and easy to understand.


Click to jump ahead:

What is a cycle diagram?

A cycle diagram is a visual representation of a process in which the steps or flow of events interact repeatedly.

Here is an example of a process that forms a cycle:

cycle diagram

In a cycle diagram, the end of a process flow extends to the beginning, which makes it a repeating cycle with no beginning and end.

Cycle diagrams depict the main events of a cycle, the relationship between these events, and how the cycle repeats.

What is a cycle diagram used for?

A cycle diagram has many applications and can be utilized in different industries.

In education, cycle diagrams are often used to visualize natural processes such as the life cycles of organisms and biochemical processes such as the carbon cycle and water cycle.

At the same time, it can also be used to portray man-made processes.

cycle diagram

In business and manufacturing, a cycle diagram can help in employee onboarding, project planning and management, and process management and improvement. It can be used to:

  • Illustrate the sequence and repetition of steps in a business process
  • Communicate the different cycle phases of planning a project
  • Show the movement and circulation of resources and outputs within a production process
  • Facilitate decision-making and problem-solving (Decision cycle)
  • Form a strategy for the continuous improvement (Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle) and performance optimization (DMAIC improvement cycle) of business processes

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5 types of cycle diagrams

Cycle diagrams come in various forms, but for the sake of this article, we will focus on 5 important types:

1. Life cycle diagram

A life cycle diagram is used to depict the different stages in the life of an organism. However, life cycles can also be used for products, ideas, data, resources, and other things that pass different stages throughout their existence.

Here is an example of the life cycle of a business idea:

cycle diagram

2. Decision cycle

A decision cycle consists of a series of repeated steps that are followed in order to reach, implement, and learn from the results of a decision. Decision cycles are great decision-making and problem-solving tools as they provide different methods of making decisions.

A decision cycle doesn’t follow a specific format; its main goal is to connect a need to an outcome and show the cyclic process that happens in between.

Here is an example of a decision cycle that you can use as a guide in answering questions and making decisions:

cycle diagram

3. PDCA cycle

PDCA stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act. A PDCA cycle is a business process management method that is used for implementing change and improvement.

cycle diagram

Also called the Deming cycle, a PDCA cycle consists of four steps or phases in a continuous loop which are designed to guide the user in:

  • Planning a change or improvement
  • Doing or performing the change to test its effectiveness
  • Checking and analyzing the results of the change
  • Acting out the learnings from the results of the change and using them to plan new changes or improvements to start the cycle again

A PDCA cycle can be used in project planning, especially for projects that aim to improve or implement change to the design of a product, service, or process.

Here is an example of a PDCA cycle used for the change management process:

cycle diagram

4. DMAIC improvement cycle

The DMAIC improvement cycle is a data-driven method used for improving and optimizing business process performance. DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

Six Sigma is a set of techniques used by organizations for process improvement, and the DMAIC improvement cycle is the core tool used in Six Sigma projects. However, it can be used as a standalone quality and performance improvement strategy.

The DMAIC improvement cycle consists of five phases that provide an in-depth look at the performance of a process or system. Here are the steps in the proper order:

cycle diagram
  1. Define the problem or improvement activity as well as the goals and requirements that need to be met
  2. Measure the process performance by process mapping, assessing if specifications are met, and examining the frequency of problems
  3. Analyze the process by conducting root cause analysis, identifying process failures, and detecting variations within the process
  4. Improve the process performance by resolving the root causes of problems and experimenting with possible solutions
  5. Control future process performance by executing and sustaining improvement efforts, implementing quality control, and monitoring process behavior

5. Systems development life cycle

The systems development life cycle (SDLC) or application development life cycle is a model used for project management and software development.

It consists of seven stages that cover the development of information systems from conception to completion. These stages are:

cycle diagram
  1. Planning
  2. Analysis of requirements
  3. Designing and prototyping
  4. Development
  5. Testing
  6. Integration and implementation
  7. Maintenance and operations

The systems development life cycle can help development teams clearly define their goals before diving into a project and properly test systems before implementation.

It can be used alongside an agile product development process in which a system’s features are developed one at a time, therefore repeating the cycle again and again.

Want to visualize your qualitative data using another type of diagram? Learn about these 10 types of diagrams and discover how to use the right one for your project.

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How to make a cycle diagram in 3 steps

These are the steps for creating a cycle diagram:

Define the steps of the process

First, identify the process and the steps or activities it is composed of. The process steps must be in sequential order and should create a cycle.

On a sheet of paper, draw a circle and divide it into parts that will reflect the number of steps in the process. Label each part so you can picture how your cycle diagram must be formatted.

Use a cycle diagram maker to visualize your cycle diagram

To easily create your cycle diagram, use Venngage Diagram Templates. It offers dozens of cycle diagram templates that you can customize and use for free.

All you need to do is sign up to create an account and choose a free template. You can then edit and label its parts with the name of the process and its steps.

You can also apply your own brand colors and logos to your brochure design too, using My Brand Kit. Simply have your branding elements automatically extracted through this feature:

cycle diagram

A business account also includes the real-time collaboration feature, so you can invite members of your team to work simultaneously on a project. And apply all of your change and brand assets to your design in one click:

cycle diagram

Design your cycle diagram

Venngage’s Diagram Maker features a user-friendly editor with a drag-and-drop interface so it is perfect for those without design experience.

It allows you to easily change shapes, colors, labels, and fonts as well as add icons and other elements so you can design your cycle diagram in a matter of minutes.

Use colors to differentiate each step and arrows to support the flow of the process. Once your cycle diagram is complete, you can freely download and share it online.

At Venngage, we don’t think diagrams need to be dull and boring. That’s why we create professionally designed templates for your business. Want to know more diagram options? Learn about these smart diagrams to customize