The two words “continuous” and “improvement” almost make a description of this important concept seem superfluous, but there are subtleties to continuous improvement that all problem solvers should recognise.
Let us begin by clarifying precisely what is being improved. It is often said that continuous improvement is about improving processes, services, or products. But what defines “improvement”? It is important that we think of continuous improvement as the improvement of RESULTS. This means that the measurement of performance is a vital aspect of continuous improvement.
“Continuous” as a word is distinct from “continual”. When something occurs continually, it happens with pauses in between individual events. When something occurs continuously, it never stops. And so it is that continuous improvement is an ongoing and fluid process.
The improvements referred to are small, incremental improvements. While you will hear of continuous improvement including “breakthroughs” from time to time, and these would also be a natural outcome of problem solving, expecting a succession of breakthroughs along your continuous improvement journey is unrealistic. Instead, improvements in small steps is more the norm. Problem solving would by definition make each of these small improvements sustainable, and performance can then be improved by building on a solid foundation of prior improvement.
Continuous improvement would take place for individual measurable parameters, but an organisation would typically be driving continuous improvement for a range of results at the same time. This improves performance for the organisation overall.
The last important point to consider about continuous improvement is that it involves continuous reflection. Results are to be examined, and the lessons learned should be factored into decisions taken on how to improve performance further going into the future.
So, the next time you think of continuous improvement, think of small, incremental improvements in measurable results that never stop, characterised by ongoing learning and the application of that learning to yet further improvement.
Copyright © 2020, Learn2SolveProblems.com, all rights reserved