Continual improvement is defined as a process that includes ongoing and continuous effort to improve the standard of processes, services, or products. It is always striving to identify opportunities for improvement and making necessary changes that will result in a better outcome.
Continual improvement helps in fostering innovation and evolution and is considered a must for long-term success in business.
Meaning of continual improvement
Continual improvement has been described as a managerial concept that is the objective of every business entity.
It requires everyone at every level to be constantly on the look-out for ways and means to increase efficiency, effectiveness, productivity, and profitability. It encourages both employees and employer and the staff in between to improve every facet of the organization.
- Reduce costs
- Increase quality
- Increase efficiency
It is the small changes made over time that has a better impact on the system. The best thing about changes is that as they are small, there is the least resistance for it and becomes ideal for people who wish to
- Are looking for results
- Who wants to remove any resistance to the initiative called change
- Create an improvement culture in the system
- Get everyone on board for continual improvement
- Create a responsive and reliable improvement project
Continual improvement model
Continual improvement is a step-by-step strategy that can be brought about by a series of small changes over some time. It includes-
This is the first step in the cycle and includes identifying the opportunities and deciding on a plan of action for its improvement. Define the problem, brainstorm ideas, describe opportunities, and lastly develop a plan.
Be clear and state your desired outcome so that you can know whether you are working towards your goal
Once you are clear about what you want to do as a possible solution, the time is right to implement it on a smaller scale to estimate its feasibility. It also gives you to test your solution and identify whether it can be a success at a larger scale.
This is the stage where you compare the expected outcome with the result and decide whether it is a success or you need to start with it again. If it is suitable as per your calculations, you can jump to the fourth stage
This is the final stage where you will have to implement your solution on a bigger and wider scale. Remember this is not a one-time thing as you will need to be on your toes continuously if you want to implement continual improvement in your system.
Real-life examples of continual improvement
Some real-life examples of companies that have followed the process of continual improvement are
Danaher Corporation is a globally renowned manufacturing company that has implemented “Hoshin Kanri,” a strategic seven-step planning method for continual improvement in its organization.
Hilton Hotels uses the Balanced Scorecard method to develop and share ideas for continual improvement in its organization.
Factors for success of continual improvement
Continual improvement helps to make the organization a much better place. Factors for success of continual improvement are-
- It is vital to ensure that continuous improvement is instilled throughout the entire organization
- Improvement must be a gradual process that is based on small changes and should be implemented as soon as possible.
- Take input and feedback from the entire workforce because once you involve every resource the chances of success increase to a greater degree
- Employees must be allowed and encouraged to take ownership of their decisions. It will boost their confidence and give them the necessary encouragement to think about continual improvement
- It is vital to felicitate open and continuous communication for ongoing success
- Don’t be afraid of failure. Start again if you think something is not working.
- Be deliberate and patient and remember you need sustained energy and willpower to implement a change.
- It will take rime hence be relentless in your pursuit
- Analyze the improvement so that you can make necessary changes along the way
- Go over the steps, again and again, to bring about a change however small
Mistakes to avoid while implementing continual improvement
Some common mistakes that organizations make while implementing continual improvement process are
- Business entities treat it as a program to fix one specific area. There is a lack of involvement from senior leaders and every one of the employees. Without standard training and clarity among the workforce, it becomes impossible to sustain the continuous improvement program.
- Most companies find out about the continual improvement approach either from the companies that they are friendly with or by looking at their competitors. They then simply want to implement the process without undertaking a thorough study. Each company is different, and it is not necessary that the structure that was great for one company will be a perfect fit for another.
- Never appoint one person for the job instead implements a process where everyone is individually as well as collectively responsible for success and failure. This will increase accountability. When one person is designated to lead, it becomes impossible for him to bring everyone under the same umbrella.
- The most common mistake that an organization makes is that it does not realize that it is the leader’s responsibility to act as a guiding force if they want to make a success of any process.
Benefits of continual improvement
The benefits of the continual improvement process are as follows
- Improved morale
- Better customer satisfaction
- Enhanced customer service
- Save money on labor
- Improved quality
- Reduced process and lead time
- Improved employee engagement
- Increased capacity
- Reduced staff turnover
- Growth via additional capabilities and services
- Proactive learning culture
- Faster response in the market
- Faster shipments
- Increase in output with the same resources
- Maximized profit sharing
- Control of inventory
- Better understanding
- Competitive services and products
Disadvantages of continual improvement
#1. Incremental improvement
Continual improvement is an incremental process where you have to take small steps as per the set assumptions. Sometimes the defined objectives cause more harm than good, and you need to shatter the existing mold and try something different
#2. Stifled innovation
The disadvantage of continual improvement is that it can result in missing opportunities and stifling the creativity o staff
#3. Inadequate implementation
Sometimes objectives are not communicated properly, and it results in an inadequate implementation that causes more harm than good
Industry application of continual improvement
#1. Hardware-Product Applications
A continual improvement program enables the manufacturer to improve product quality as per the suggestions of customer feedback. In hardware-product applications, you can increase product capabilities and identify opportunities to minimize costs.
#2. Service Industries
Continual improvement is implemented in service industries to increase the quality of service delivery and improve efficiency.
#3. Process-centric Industries
Program in process-centric industries enables to identify inadequacy and hold-ups. This allows the people to minimize waste, effort, and time.