5 Continuous Improvement Examples (And How To Incorporate)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 12 October 2022

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A continuous improvement process is an ongoing effort to improve products, services or processes. The continuous improvement process offers an assortment of methods for business operations and professionals to expand the scope of development and growth. Knowing more about continuous improvement can help you to reduce waste and optimise outcomes. In this article, we examine some general continuous improvement examples, review two types of continuous improvement processes and provide examples of this type of improvement mechanism in action.

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‍5 Continuous Improvement Examples

Here are five common continuous improvement examples:

1. Think tanks

Periodic think tank and ideation sessions can be beneficial for a company's growth. You can choose to run think tanks with a specific agenda in mind, or elicit the attendance of key personnel to ensure that each of the individuals discuss relevant ideas. You can explain how processes work during these sessions to see if there are any areas that require improvement or change.

Because technology is intertwined with most business processes. Discussing updates and new technological solutions geared towards optimisation is often a good place to start. Automation solutions, for example, are becoming increasingly important for businesses to remain competitive and reduce operational costs.

Related: What Is Competitive Strategy? Definition, Types And Examples

2. Surveys

People who work for a company are often the most knowledgeable about what specific improvements they can make to existing processes. Surveys can be critical for obtaining feedback from customers and vendors and also for obtaining feedback from employees. You can learn about a team's weak points and identify areas for improvement by surveying them. If you spend most of your time as a business leader, the smaller details that have a significant impact on a company's outputs can go unnoticed without the insights that surveys offer.

3. Training

Cross-disciplinary training and automation software can help improve processes significantly. For example, if you train employees to perform multiple tasks, you can ensure that processes run even when a professional is absent due to illness or on holiday. Automation tools reduce an operation's reliance on key personnel. With the right automation tools and effective training programmes, anyone with access can address an important aspect of a process within a system. Not only is the process able to run automatically in such a case, but it also allows multiple professionals to become familiar with the steps required to produce an output.

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4. Time-management

Time is one of the most valuable resources that a company can waste. Being able to precisely measure and gauge how long a process takes can provide insight into effective methods for improving the process. You can look at how long processes take and figure out how to save time. You can accomplish this by fast-tracking approvals and reducing touchpoints, thereby avoiding potential bottlenecks and delays.

5. Catch ball

A single person rarely starts and completes processes within an organisation. As a result, every process requires someone to be accountable for its execution. It may also require the input and assistance of a large number of people. Catch ball is a continuous improvement method that requires the person who starts a process to clearly state its purpose and concerns to everyone else involved in it. They can provide relevant information to the group for feedback and generate suggestions for improvement while remaining solely accountable for its completion.

General Characteristics Of A Continuous Improvement Process

Continuous improvement is a method for identifying opportunities for increasing efficiency‌. This includes evaluating current processes, products and services to maximise output while minimising waste. Continuous improvement has become an essential part of operations, and it involves every element that constitutes a process. To incorporate it into work, creating a culture of improvement and periodic development is a top priority. Achieving this is possible by empowering every professional in an organisation to understand that they have the ability to identify areas for improvement to effect or initiate change.

Employees, customers, businesses and investors benefit from continuous improvement. But continuous improvement is not a one-time process. As the name implies, the method is ongoing and has no end. It is a method that becomes ingrained in a company's day-to-day operations. Even if it becomes a part of a business operation playbook, it still necessitates using intelligent strategy and systematic methodologies to have an impact.

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Types Of Continuous Improvement Processes

In a competitive business environment, a company's operational style is what distinguishes it from competitors. These two methods can help you regularly assess formal and informal processes and optimise both input and output to continuously improve the quality of products and services, and job satisfaction:

Incremental improvement

During a process, this type of improvement can take place as and when problems emerge. It has the advantage of being less expensive and faster than breakthrough continuous improvement. If you are running a process and discover a flaw, like a typo in a brochure or a data entry error, you can correct the error as you find it. To ensure that the process continues without error in the next iteration, you can also communicate the change. As a result, incremental continuous improvement is beneficial, provided the person who corrects the error informs other professionals of the correction.

Incremental improvement is a method of process improvement in which you and your team concentrate efforts on smaller solutions that gradually but steadily move the company forward. These suggestions are typically low cost and low risk, and employees may implement them across multiple levels of organisation. Although the results may not appear right away, they may last for a long time. The accumulation of many small improvements is often as effective as, if not more effective than, attempting to make large changes within a short period of time.

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Breakthrough improvement

Rather than making a change in the middle of the process, this method entails identifying areas for improvement and then strategically approaching the change as a group. This is usually for more significant corrections that necessitate the participation of the entire team. Major improvements in key business areas are required for breakthrough improvement. These are typically for long-term issues that dedicated resources can only address for a limited time. The management staff typically selects breakthrough improvement projects after many rounds of discussions, as they require a significant investment of both time and resources in a coordinated way.

Breakthrough improvement projects are typically more complex, take longer to complete and require a larger, more diverse team to study in depth. Because of its result-oriented mindset and scope for dramatic changes, breakthrough improvement encourages creativity. Breakthrough improvement focuses on a specialist and technology-oriented approach. Data analysis and the adoption of new technology that allows dramatic improvements characterise it. Breakthrough improvement can generate feedback, but only at a slow rate because it requires large changes.

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Benefits Of Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement aims to achieve two main objectives: streamlining workflows and lowering waste. Groups of professionals collaborate to cut costs and improve output, whether it is the quality of a product, service or process. A majority of processes necessitate involving multiple touchpoints or concerned parties. This facilitates an objective understanding of underlying issues. Project managers and executives review every project's cost using financial models and data. They can assess where costs are too high and work to reduce expenditure and waste, to make a process more efficient through continuous improvement methodologies.

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How To Incorporate A Continuous Improvement Process?

Continuous improvement‌ does not always have a clear beginning and an end result. Instead, it is most effective when you integrate it into a company's culture and involve all concerned professionals in it. Here are some ways to make continuous process improvement a habit in a company:

1. Set manageable improvements

Set attainable objectives. For making improvements, it is best to break down larger projects into smaller, more manageable sections. This can help to reduce strain on individual professionals and keep everyone on track for collective success.

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2. Ask for feedback

Throughout your operations, ‌solicit feedback from customers, stakeholders and employees. Feedback is crucial for identifying areas for improvement that professional analyses may miss. It can also provide a business operation with new perspectives and ideas.

3. Motivate employees

You can cultivate a culture in which each employee feels capable of spotting inefficiencies and proposing solutions. You can also develop a reward system to provide motivation to employees. For example, create incentive schemes or develop a system that allows and encourages employees to share feedback regularly and improve an overarching process.

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