Continuous improvement (CI), also often called a continual improvement process (CIP), is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once.
A broader definition is that of the Institute of Quality Assurance who defined “continuous improvement as a gradual never-ending change which is: ‘… focused on increasing the effectiveness and/or efficiency of a business or organisation to fulfil its policy and objectives.
Some business owners and key executives see CIPs as being a method to document and communicate processes that help to increase productivity and improve quality.
Identifying and Understanding your Objectives
Before beginning the CIP process, you will need to clearly identify and understand your business’s or organisation’s objectives and what needs to be done to meet these objectives. This will involve asking yourself some critical key questions about your business or organisation such as:
- What is the purpose of establishing your business or organisation?
- What is your business’s or organisation’s “mission” statement? and
- What is your “vision” or “dream” for your business or organisation?
The Continuous Improvement Process
The CIP process focuses on the critical element of planning. Here is a list of steps that should help you and/or your key employees to effectively manage the CIP process:
Step 1: Develop a Plan
Developing a plan will help you to consider what needs to be done to meet your business’ or organisation’s objectives. A well-developed plan will contain your strategies, tactics and action plans that clearly outlines:
- What is to be done?
- When will it be done? and
- By whom?
Step 2: Implement the Plan
Once you have developed the plan you will need to implement the plan. To be successful the plan has to be directly aligned to your KPIs.
Step 3: Analyse and Review your Plan
Once you have implemented the plan, you will need to analyse and review the effectiveness of your plan against your business’s or organisation’s opportunities and threats as well as its strengths and weaknesses.
Step 4: Action Plans
Based on the results of implementing, analysing, and reviewing your plan. You may need to recommend new or more efficient business processes and strategies are required to be action, so as to ensure continuous and sustainable improvement is achieved.
Step 5: Managing the Impact of Change
Based on the outcomes, you may need to provide guidance and support in managing the impact of change and transitioning the change to new processes.
Step 6: Providing Operational Support and Education
You may be called upon to provide operational support and education to your employees who may be impacted by the required change process.
Step 7: Monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Finally, you may need to monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that can demonstrate to you or your key managers:
- If your business or organisation is moving towards and achieving its objectives.