A continual improvement process, also often called a continuous improvement process (abbreviated as CIP or CI), is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once.Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility.
Some see CIPs as a meta-process for most management systems (such as business process management, quality management, project management, and program management). W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer of the field, saw it as part of the ‘system’ whereby feedback from the process and customer were evaluated against organisational goals. The fact that it can be called a management process does not mean that it needs to be executed by ‘management’; but rather merely that it makes decisions about the implementation of the delivery process and the design of the delivery process itself.
Some successful implementations use the approach known as Kaizen (the translation of kai (“change”) zen (“good”) is “improvement”).
- The core principle of CIP is the (self) reflection of processes. (Feedback)
- The purpose of CIP is the identification, reduction, and elimination of suboptimal processes. (Efficiency)
- The emphasis of CIP is on incremental, continual steps rather than giant leaps. (Evolution)
Key features of Kaizen include:
- Improvements are based on many, small changes rather than the radical changes that might arise from Research and Development
- As the ideas come from the workers themselves, they are less likely to be radically different, and therefore easier to implement
- Small improvements are less likely to require major capital investment than major process changes
- The ideas come from the talents of the existing workforce, as opposed to using research, consultants or equipment – any of which could be very expensive
- All employees should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance
- It helps encourage workers to take ownership for their work, and can help reinforce team working, thereby improving worker motivation.
The elements above are the more tactical elements of CIP. The more strategic elements include deciding how to increase the value of the delivery process output to the customer (effectiveness) and how much flexibility is valuable in the process to meet changing needs.
Source – Wkipedia
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Director, Look to Improve Ltd (L2i)