Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement Jonathan Poland

Continuous improvement is a systematic approach to improving products, services, and processes over time. It involves a cycle of planning, implementing, measuring, and adjusting in order to achieve ongoing improvements. This process typically involves identifying areas for improvement, implementing changes or improvements, evaluating the results of these changes, and making any necessary adjustments to further improve performance. Continuous improvement is an ongoing process that seeks to identify and eliminate waste and inefficiencies in order to create value for customers and the organization. The following are illustrative examples of continuous improvement.


An engineering team that continually finds ways to improve a figure of merit such as the energy conversion rate of solar panels.


A retail banking website continually improves its infrastructure and service management processes to decrease its downtime and increase availability.


Improving the intangible elements of a service such as the taste of food on a flight. Typically measured with a process of quantification of customer surveys.


Improving physical environments such as buildings, interior design and landscapes. For example, a large restaurant chain that is continually experimenting with new interior concepts.


Improving processes by eliminating wasted effort or resources. For example, a farmer who bags fruit as opposed to spraying it with chemicals once a month.


Asset improvements such as upgrading a machine that is a bottleneck. For example, a rail line does an analysis and finds that a particular legacy model of signal equipment has caused an usual number of delays due to their high maintenance requirements. The signals are replaced with more reliable models.

Policy & Procedure

Identifying counterproductive or inefficient policies and replacing them. For example, a airline that chooses a passenger to be removed from an overbooked flight using a complex algorithm that can’t be explained to the passenger resulting in dissatisfied customers and potential public relations issues. A more efficient policy might be to incrementally increase compensation offers until a passenger volunteers.


Improving communication and information. For example, if a customer service team gets the same question 200 times a day, they might contact a marketing team about updating product packaging to make things more clear.

Information Technology

Improving software and related machines such as robots. For example, a robot that sorts recycling has its error rate improved on a regular basis with tweaks to its machine learning algorithm.


Seeking ways to further reduce managed risks. For example, a farmer reduces risks related to the price fluctuations of commodities with incremental strategies to diversity and differentiate their crop.


Improving quality such as a manufacturer that investigates quality control defects to determine root cause and identify improvements to designs, parts, processes, materials, methods and controls.


Efforts to improve organizational culture on an ongoing basis using techniques such as sharing corporate stories to build a sense of team identity.

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