How much time do you spend per week on improving your operations or processes at work? If you don’t invest enough time into continuous improvement, you’ll never reach your goals. Many companies focus too much on their quarterly financial results rather than continuously improving their performance throughout the year.
They also fail to establish clear objectives and measure their success. This leads to poor decision-making and a lack of innovation. Continuous improvement requires effective leadership, team collaboration, data collection and analysis, and regular feedback from employees. The result is better productivity, higher customer satisfaction, and greater profitability.
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is a philosophy that aims at continuously improving processes through continuous learning and experimentation. This approach is widely adopted across industries, especially manufacturing.
In the context of lean manufacturing, continuous improvement means adopting an iterative development cycle where every new feature or change is tested in practice before being implemented into production. The Gemba walk is a method for continuous improvement that helps managers identify business problems.
What are different continuous improvement methods?
When it comes to continuous improvement, there are multiple different lean methodologies that your business can leverage. Below are a couple of the most common continuous improvement models.
Kaizen is based on the Japanese concept of continuous improvement and consists of making small changes over long periods of time. The aim is to focus on eliminating waste and improving quality, whilst also emphasizing self-reflection, feedback, and evolution. Kaizen is widely considered the basis of all other continuous improvement models.
The PDCA cycle is one of the most popular methodologies used in lean manufacturing processes. In fact, it’s been around since the 1950s and is based on the previous philosophy of kaizen. It stands for:
- Plan: this step involves creating goals and objectives.
- Do: this involves executing the plan.
- Check: this involves double-checking that everything is working properly
- Act: this consists in making adjustments and improvements to ensure continuous improvement.
Why is continuous improvement important?
Continuous Improvement is about understanding what you are doing well and what you could do better. This understanding leads to actionable insights and allows organizations to optimize operations. Continuous Improvement provides a framework for making improvements and it helps teams focus on areas of improvement without getting caught up in endless discussions around things that aren’t working.
Continous improvement is important because it:
- Allows you to obtain a competitive edge
- Improves customer satisfaction
- Improves employee satisfaction
- Improves productivity
What are the benefits of continuous improvement in a company?
It can be used in all departments
Continuous improvement is a concept that is applicable across all types of organizations – whether you work in manufacturing, healthcare, retail, hospitality, or education as well as across all departments within an organization. Continuous improvement is about making sure that the organization is always improving itself.
It increases employee engagement
Employee engagement can make a difference to your bottom line. A recent study commissioned by Towers Perrin found that companies with high levels of employee engagement had 19.2% higher earnings per share than those with low engagement levels. Improving your business inherently involves improving your employee engagement.
By improving the way in which your company functions, you make things easier for your employees, which they will appreciate. At the end of the day, you are all working together towards a common goal, so it is in everyone’s best interest to create a positive working environment.
It improves customer satisfaction
Continuous improvement allows companies to gain insight into their customer’s needs and requirements. What do your customers require? What problems are they facing? Which products or services provide the greatest benefit to them? When you have the answer to these questions, you will have the tools needed to understand customers’ needs more accurately, which will allow you to improve your customer service and reach your business goals.
It gives you a competitive edge
Companies that actively look for new ways to improve their business will inevitably increase the value of their offering. This will lead to more complete and economically competitive solutions. The most successful companies are those that continuously evaluate how well their existing processes work and what needs to be improved.
They do this by looking for ways to make the best use of their resources, including people, capital, technology, etc., and by constantly seeking out better ways of doing things. In short, continuous improvement is about making sure that everything you do, every day, adds value to your customers and helps you achieve your goals.
It reduces employee turnover
Ongoing improvement creates a positive company culture which will ensure that employees actually want to work for you. Employees who actively participate in the growth of the company gain a strong sense of purpose, pride, and fulfillment. They feel like part of something bigger than themselves—a team, a family, a cause. As you can imagine, this reduces employee turnover.
What does continuous improvement look like in action?
The continuous improvement process is actually extremely simple. It manifests in three different steps and provides ample opportunities for improvement. Below is a brief outline of a continuous improvement program that is guaranteed to materialize ongoing improvement.
Identify current or potential issues
The first step in solving any problem is identifying it so you should start with some research. Ask yourself: What is my goal? How do I measure success? Who is affected by this change? Where does it fit into our overall strategy? What resources do we already have in place?, etc. Once you’ve done that, write down everything you know about the problem and then define it. The Gemba Walk App can help you document problems digitally by taking pictures, notes, or videos.
Create and execute your plan
Once you know what the issues are in your business process, you can begin creating a plan. Whether it’s a full-blown plan to completely transform your entire business or a small-scale plan to improve little things, this is where you begin to change things. It is important to remember that things are not necessarily going to fix themselves instantly, so a period of trial and error might begin here.
Evaluate your results
It is important to remember that continuous improvement is an ongoing effort. Therefore, once you have begun the continual improvement process and you have implemented your plan, you need to evaluate your results. You cannot expect every change to work perfectly, it’s important to take time to assess whether the changes you have made are working. The culture of improvement allows for mistakes.
Who is responsible for continuous improvement?
Everyone is responsible for continuous improvement. Although management and business owners can make big decisions, they need to collaborate with all the members of the company in order to seize all possible improvement opportunities.
When to use continuous improvement
There is no question of when you should be using it, as every single thing that you do within your business should be done with a continuous improvement mindset. There are always going to be aspects of your business that you can improve as no business is perfect, and whilst occasionally you will experience a breakthrough improvement, the little improvements along the way are just as important.
Continuous improvement software
One of the best ways that you can encourage ongoing improvements within your company is to perform regular Gemba walks. They are useful to assess the activity on the ground by sending a dedicated team or person to observe specific processes to identify areas of improvement or problems.
Our Gemba Walk App allows businesses to increase efficiency and reduce waste by digitizing their Gemba walks with a digital checklist. Thanks to our digital solution, companies can efficiently document issues with a cloud management app that works on all mobile devices.
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