Improve Efficiency Of Your Team And Business: Master The Art Of Continuous Improvement

How To Master The Art Of Continuous Improvement

There’s no single process that is perfect. What it means is that each time a company should be looking for ways to identify, test and deploy, change, else each twist will be a roll of the dice. I know the process of identifying, testing and deploying these changes can be costly and harder but it is worth it. Some of these changes will make your operations smoother and the work of your employees a lot easier. It opens rooms for better value from your current efforts and operations. In this brief, I am going to talk about Continuous Improvement and how to master this art.

What Is Continuous Improvement?

Continuous Improvement process is a process of ensuring that the quality of your products and services improve over time. It is a dedication to making small but ongoing steps for improvements each day with the expectations that this effort will add up something significant to your current efforts. The efforts of continual improvement can seek ‘’incremental’’ improvement over time or ‘’breakthrough’’ improvement all at once.

Incremental vs. Breakthrough Improvements

As I had already mentioned above, continuous improvement is practiced using two main disciplines – Incremental and Breakthrough improvements. In some cases, they can be used interchangeably but one of the best ways of making it work for you is to combine the two of them.

Incremental Continuous improvement is all about making small changes to a service, product or even practice to resolve the existing problems that were noticed. One good thing about incremental continuous improvement is because it costs less and it can be implemented fast enough. However, there are some huge risks associated

In this principle, you can just make these changes without having to review the entire operation. In most of the cases when you notice some loophole that needs improvement and corrections, you can just implement the changes on yourself and later communicate it in the next meeting.

Breakthrough Continuous Improvement

Incremental vs Breakthrough Improvements Lean Process

This involves making large changes into the processes, products, services and several other aspects of your organizations. Here, you cannot implement the changes alone, you have to consult the team and later decide on what you are going to do about it. The process of implementing Breakthrough Continuous Improvement may cost more than the prior principle. However, you also expect large results that may benefit the organization on a large scale. It also needs continuous review and changes to make it work well.

Tools For Continuous Improvement

There are several steps and tools used in the process of adopting the art of continuous improvement. One of these tools is the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle. This cycle is also known as Shewhart Cycle or Deming Cycle. The cycle takes four steps just as I had already mentioned above.

  • Plan-This is the first step. You have to, first of all, identify an opportunity and plan for change. After that, you can be sure that you are ready to move on to the rest of the steps;
  • Do-After you have planned for change, you have to implement the change on a small scale;
  • Check-This is the next step that needs expertise and experience. After you have implemented the changes, then you must be waiting for results. In this step, you are required to use data to analyze the results of the change and determine whether it made a difference as expected or not;
  • Act-After you have analyzed the results, I guess now you have an insight into what to expect even after you implement the change in large scale. In this step, you are supposed to adopt the changes if it was successful according to the results you gathered in the prior step. You are also required to continuously assess your results.

There are several other methods that are used in a continuous improvement process which includes Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, and Lean.

Total Quality Management

This method of Continuous Improvement focuses on the long-term success of the company through customer satisfaction. All the members of that particular organization participate in improving services, products, culture in which they work and process.

In simple terms, this can be described as a customer-focused organization which seeks to involve all the employees in continual improvement. The method uses effective communication and strategy data to integrate the quality displace into the culture of the organization.

Six Sigma

This is another method of continuous improvement. It is a method that provides organizations with tools to improve the capacity of their business process. It also focuses at increasing the performance in the company and at the same time defect reduction which later improves the morale of the employees and quality of services and products they offer to their customers.

Six Sigma has several definitions but among them, you can be able to deduce a common thread as described below.

  • The use of teams that are assigned well definite projects that are thought to offer direct impact to the organization’s bottom line;
  • The other thing is training in statistical thinking at all levels of the organization; This training aims at providing all the workers with extensive training in advanced statistics and project management;
  • The method also emphases on the DMAIC approach to solving all the problems in the company. It focuses on defining, measure, analyze, improving and measuring all the processes in the organization;
  • Lastly, they all calculably agree that there should be a management environment that supports these initiatives as a business strategy.

Lean

Lastly, we have to look at this other method of Continuous improvement. The best definition for this term was put forward by Henry Ford with just one statement “we will not put into our establishment anything that is useless’’. This method focuses on the elimination of all non-value activities in the organization. Some of these wastes and other under-productive activities in the organization include:

  • Time in a queue;
  • Costs of quality: rework, inspection, and scrap;
  • Non-value adding processes;
  • Transporting;
  • Overproduction and many more.

The leanest company extends this concept throughout the enter supply chain. What this means is that you cannot be able to eliminate all the waste in your organization if you are working with non-lean suppliers and subcontractors.

How Does Continuous Improvement Work?

One mistake that most company managers and owners make is thinking that change is only inevitable when there is a huge profit associated with it. Most of the people put pressure into implementing huge changes that will get everybody in the world talking about. The reality of the matter is that adopting changes in your organization to just improve your service and product delivery by one percent isn’t notable but it can have some visible results, especially in the long term.

Although it is possible to use CI by interfering with your processes and methods whenever you deduce the existence of a certain mistake that needs immediate actions, it is advisable that you have a set of a plan to follow. At this point in time, I am going to share the simplest method for implementing continuous improvement.

  • Make small, incremental changes on the fly;
  • Communicate to the rest of the team and arrange the meeting to discuss large changes. I had already mentioned that you cannot take action on large changes alone. You need to ensure that your workers have mastered what you want, your stakeholders agree with you and the suppliers will be able to adopt the new changes;
  • Identify the problem and loopholes that need improvement. Don’t hesitate to involve your coworkers in the process.
  • After that, plan potential solutions -this is a process that would involve more than one person. You can get a team of experts to help you with this. However, if the changes are small and don’t require a lot of investment, you can come up with the solutions alone or with just a few of your members.
  • After you have come up with the solution, then test them in a non-live environment.
  • If the solution seems to work, then implement it and closely monitor these changes.

In summary, follow the below list of acronyms:

As I had already stated, incremental changes are easy to handle. They don’t require a lot of consulting and expertise. The real wisdom needed here is to identify which change is small not to bother your team and which is not. Just ask yourself if you would like to discuss the changes with the rest of the team. You should as well be sure to identify if the changes you are about to implement can cause any problem to the rest of the team. If you get clear answers about the above two questions, then you are ready to go.

The Bottom Line

Continuous improvement has several simple benefits. One of them is that it helps you constantly better your practices and later impact on the efficiency of your team and business. I bet you now have a clear picture of what is required of you and how you can go about this improvement process.

Images By: Lisa Fotios, Aleksandar Pasaric