A desire for continuous improvement, on your part, can help your business grow. However, it can be difficult to identify areas where improvement is needed. Which is why we have created this guide to everything you need to know about continuous improvement. Over the course of this article, we will cover various aspects of this topic, from the benefits of continuous improvement to how to put it into practice.
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement (CI) is an approach to quality management that focuses on continuous improvements in processes, products, services, and customer satisfaction. It focuses on reducing waste, improving efficiency and maintaining high performance standards.
Why is continuous improvement important for businesses?
Continuous improvement is an essential part of any business strategy. It allows your team to identify areas where they can improve, and provides them with an avenue to develop new ideas. These improvements lead to increased profits, reduced costs, and improved customer service.
Below are some of the key benefits of continuous improvement programs:
- Improved employee engagement
- Increased employee involvement
- Lower staff turnover
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Creation of a positive learning culture
- Improved products and service
- Increased productivity
- Less human errors
- Creation of a safer workplace
- Achievement of business goals
- Increased profits
What are the principles of continuous improvement?
The principles of continuous improvement are driven by Kaizen which literally means “change for better” in Japanese. In business management, it refers to continuous improvement in quality, efficiency, innovation, productivity, customer service, cost effectiveness, etc. This is achieved through small incremental changes over time.
Within Kaizen, there are a few leading principles that you can use as the framework for all your continuous improvement efforts:
- Focus on the consumer
- Collaborate with workers
- Ensure support from leaders
- Focus on small changes
- Work towards a common goal
- Assess key performance indicators
- Don’t be afraid to change things
At the end of the day, all the principles involved in continuous improvement programs hold the customer at the center while also uplifting employees. It is about working as a team to facilitate ongoing improvements within the workplace.
What are the stages of continuous improvement?
The continuous improvement process is a long journey, but breaking it into smaller steps makes it easier to manage. While there are many different continuous improvement methods out there, this simple three-step approach helps you define what needs to change.
The first thing you need to do is identify how the business is currently operating, as this will make clear where the opportunities for improvement lie. In order to get an improvement cycle going, you need to know what is currently going on, what is working and what is not working. This will illuminate an array of improvement opportunities. In order to be able to identify problems, you also need to ensure that you have all the relevant information at your disposal, whether it concerns external factors such as target audiences and sales, or internal processes such as workers schedules and operating costs.
The next step in the continuous improvement process is to make the changes that, as per your assessment, are needed. However, it’s important to remember that when it comes to continuous improvement journeys, there are no instant fixes so you shouldn’t try to implement the changes on too large a scale. Rather, ideas for improvement should be slowly introduced so that you can see what works and what doesn’t.
The final stage of your continuous improvement program should be to evaluate the changes you have made. Once the change has been in effect for a couple of weeks, it will have had a chance to become normal, and you will be able to accurately assess whether its impact was positive or negative.
If it was a positive change, you can leave it as is and move on to your next improvement idea. If, on the other hand, it turned out to be a negative change, you might have to re-evaluate your continuous improvement plan and try to come up with an alternative solution.
5 tips to implement continuous improvement in your business
Perform Gemba walks
A Gemba walk involves walking through a workplace and observing how people do their jobs and how processes are carried out. It consists in asking questions to employees about how things work and trying to understand how tasks are performed. Gemba walks play a key role in promoting continuous improvement efforts as they allow managers to assess how things work on the ground.
There are many ways to gather feedback from employees, including surveys, focus groups, interviews, polls, etc., but one of the easiest methods is to simply ask them questions directly. This type of feedback can help you identify areas of weakness and strengths, and provide insights into how to improve processes.
Surveys and polls allow you to collect information from a group of individuals quickly and easily. You can use them to gauge opinions on different topics, learn what your employees like and dislike about your products/services, and even uncover potential problems before they become major issues. This allows you to identify areas of improvement from your employees which is a productive way to implement continuous improvement.
A key element of Kaizen is inclusivity. In other words, everyone – from the CEO to junior employees – needs to be involved in the continuous improvement process, in order for it to work. In order to achieve this, you should focus on activities that are designed to build relationships among the members of your team. You may also choose to hold some sort of social event to bring people together and give them an opportunity to meet one another. Employee satisfaction is a big part of continuous improvement, as it helps ensure that everyone feels valued within a work environment.
The key to ensuring that your continuous improvement efforts bear fruit, is to break everything down into smaller tasks. There is simply no point in trying to implement huge improvement projects that are overwhelming for your employees. They will only cause stress and, ultimately, failure. Instead, start small. Small changes will add up to make a big difference, which will be noticeable in the long run and will not overwhelm your business operation.
The final piece of advice that we have for you, when you are on your continuous improvement journey is to be patient. Do not expect everything to change all at once, and to have a perfectly-running business at the drop of a hat. Great things take time, so it will take time to build your business. With perseverance, all of your efforts will pay off and give you satisfaction.
Gemba walk app
Performing regular Gemba walks is the best way to implement continuous improvement. You simply will not know what needs to be improved if you are not on the ground assessing your current practices. However, we also understand that it can be difficult to organize these walks.
To make your gemba walks efficient, you should consider investing in technology. Our Gemba Walk App allows you to easily report all your findings in one place, thereby enabling you to get a comprehensive overview of how your business is working and to identify areas of improvement.
Our continuous improvement software allows you to:
- Take thorough notes of issues and problems using checklists, textual notes, pictures, etc.
- Reduce data collection time
- Generate actionable insights and ideas
- Integrate insights into your preferred task management tools