What is Continuous Improvement? 6 Principles to Follow

What is Continuous Improvement- 6 Principles

The continuous improvement model advises incremental improvements to the products, services, and business processes of an organization. Continuous improvement is integral to various improvement processes ranging from the plan check act do model to six sigma to the Toyota production system method. The lean principles and kaizen lean manufacturing best practices also incorporate continuous improvement. There are many short term and long term benefits continuous improvement offers organizations.

Two main benefits of continuous improvement commonly include improved bottom line profitability and customer service capabilities. When properly utilized, continuous improvement can supply virtually never ending optimization opportunities. The 6 principles of continuous improvement include-

1. Small Changes

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A common mistake that businesses make is only prioritizing large changes. One example of a large change would include a new product release. Best practices of continuous improvement encourage never ending changes occurring on a much smaller level. Small changes made over the long term are much less intimidating than large strategic shifts. Incremental improvements decrease the discomfort of massive strategic shifts. As a result, employee engagement and within organization morale are benefitted.

2. Employee Ideas

Continuous improvement relies on employee ideas heavily as opposed to other improvement model types that focus on top management opinions. Asking employees for their ideas makes sense as staff members are the people actually performing the work day to day. Best practices for eliciting process improvement employee ideas include asking what small changes employees would benefit from.

For example, inquiring how an employee can use an improvement process to save five minutes. Although five minutes does not seem like a lot of time over the long term it adds up. If the improvement process change is applied across the workforce, countless employee hours may be saved in the long term.

Not only do staff members understand problems more intimately, but employee engagement levels will likely rise when employee feedback is taken seriously by top management professionals. Implementing an improvement culture can lead to never ending employee process improvement ideas.

3. Inexpensive Implementation

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One of the most powerful aspects of continuous improvement is how inexpensive most small changes are. In fact, case studies demonstrate that continuous improvement can bring significant bottom line profits with even small changes performed.

An improvement model that focuses on continuous improvement is also less risky. Instead of more dangerous large strategic shifts, incremental improvements can be executed with smaller investments committed over a long term time period.

4. Employee Engagement

As so much of the continuous improvement model is reliant on employee ideas, employee engagement levels are commonly heightened. When employees themselves are the masterminds behind an idea they will likely value improvement processes more. Receiving improvement process changes created by senior management in a high level meeting without team member feedback can result in employees feeling distrusting of business process changes.

Senior management also benefits as a result of these improvement processes with more time available to spend on optimizing the employee experience. With the continuous improvement model in place, employees are more invested in business process changes and a sustainable improvement culture will likely develop.

5. Improvement Tools

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There are a wide variety of improvement tools available for companies to invest in and implement. A popular example of improvement tools includes continuous improvement software programs. Continuous improvement software offers team members more opportunities to collaborate and improves visibility for management professionals. These improvement tools allow a company culture to switch from a more traditional improvement culture to a more modern approach.

To address anything from quality management to customer service initiatives, continuous improvement software has specialized improvement tools built in. All business process improvements may be further optimized with the proper continuous improvement software implementation. Ultimately, continuous improvement software allows employees and management to work most efficiently together. As a result, both employee engagement and long term bottom line profitability are positively influenced.

6. Measurable Results

In order for a business process improvement to be meaningful, it must be measurable. Understanding the effectiveness of an improvement process creates the possibility for the improvement to be applied for future business process changes. The ability to prove a positive return on investment boosts the improvement culture of the entire organization. With the proper improvement tools and improvement software programs in place, short term benefits and long term business success are more sustainable than ever before.

What is Continuous Improvement- Key Takeaways

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  • Continual improvement of services, products, and business processes can increase bottom line profitability.
  • The continuous improvement process has 6 primary principles that all business professionals should be aware of.