The 6 Principles of a Continuous Improvement Model

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The 6 Principles of a Continuous Improvement Model

By Chris Daily 

Your business is a like a shark. Unless you keep moving forward, you'll die. That's why every business needs to continuously improve processes, products, and services.

But many business owners and managers shy away from the technical language of business management.

The Continuous Improvement (CI) model provides a framework for businesses to survive and thrive as they develop a continuous improvement culture.

You don't need a large complex continuous improvement strategy. The Continuous Improvement model breaks down the incremental changes needed to achieve long-term growth for your business. This way, you can ensure you improve each aspect of your business along the way.

Keep reading to find out more about the 6 principles of the continuous process improvement model that you need to know about.


What is the Continuous Improvement Model?


Continuous improvement, sometimes called continual improvement, is a way of thinking about your business. It's about focusing on the different aspects of your business to identify where there's room for improvement.

By discovering where you could be doing better, you can find ways of optimizing your processes and performing efficiently to achieve your growth goals.

The continuous improvement model was originally applied to the manufacturing industry. This placed a strong emphasis on operational excellence and the reduction of waste from time to raw materials. The results ultimately lead to improved customer satisfaction. However, the continuous improvement model has since evolved into a wide range of sectors and industries.

What makes the continuous improvement model different from other business management ideas?

It's that it does not concentrate on one big initiative to transform your organization. It does not require an expensive set of continuous improvement tools.

Instead, it's about improving your processes over time in small ways. In the CI model, continuous and on-going process improvement, services, and products are a constant focus and are stressed. This allows you to maintain your edge over your competitors.

Many successful and popular methodologies have emerged out of the continuous improvement movement. You might have heard of some of the following methods:


Much of the push for continuous improvement originated in the development of the Toyota Production System.  All of the above methodologies have been developed for different types of organizations with different goals in mind. And yet, they all share the 6 principles of the continuous improvement model.


Principle 1


Improvements are based on small changes, not major paradigm shifts or new inventions.


Many businesses identify problems in their organizations and act radically to change them. This can also pose its own risks to the stability of the organization.

You need to see your business as a system or organism. If you make changes somewhere in your organization, you might find that this affects other parts of your business.

That's why this principle is so important to make improvements to your business. Changes need to be small and incremental to reduce the risk, fear and resistance from elements within your business.

By implementing smaller changes in your production process, you're more likely to be able to achieve buy-in from your employees and other stakeholders.

Unlike with huge transformative changes, you begin making small incremental changes immediately. You don't have to wait for the perfect time to make the paradigm shift.


Principle 2


Improvement ideas come from employees


The continuous improvement model is a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach to management. This means that you don't simply want top management and executives generating all of the ideas, making the decisions, and mandating process management.

Instead, you need to involve your employees in the improvement process to help identify ways the organization can improve. This ensures that your employees feel a sense of ownership and engagement in the changes being made.

Additionally, the employees work on a daily basis with the processes, products, and services that your business utilizes. Therefore, they're likely to have a different and important perspective on ways to improve.

The incremental problem-solving approach is particularly suitable for involving employees in process improvement efforts.

Your employees might not be able to come up with the answers to the great challenges of your organization at the drop of a hat. However, they are capable of improving the way they carry out their daily work.

There are many useful techniques to discover ways to improve your business. For example, you might try asking your employees to suggest ways that they can save 10 minutes every day.

It's not only important to have your employees identify the problem, it's also essential that they implement the solution. By empowering your employees to find solutions to problems in your business you'll achieve better results.

You can have a big impact by implementing a single idea to save your employee 10 minutes every day. After all, if you have one hundred employees who all save 10 minutes each day, that amounts to almost 17 hours of work per day saved.


Principle 3


Incremental improvements are typically inexpensive to implement


Major changes to your organization will involve a substantial expense to your business. However, incremental improvements are often much more cost-effective.

You might find that many changes that are proposed by your employees involve the elimination of specific processes. This is much cheaper than the creation of new processes to ensure efficiency.

It's amazing how often your employees can identify ways to reduce waste for your business.

In addition, many changes will end up saving your organization money by making your processes more efficient.


Principle 4


Employees take ownership and are accountable for improvement.


One of the biggest challenges in business management is getting an employee to change something they've been doing for a long time.

Many employees have the skills and knowledge that they have built up over the years. They don't simply want to throw this away because management has come up with a new idea.

That's why small changes from your employees are much more effective. Employee involvement is a way they see the value in making the change. This also eases the pressure on your management.

What about if the employee did not come up with the change personally?


Knowing that a co-worker who has actually worked with the same processes came up with the solution that reinforces the value of the change.

Involving your employees in the continuous improvement process makes sure they feel empowered to take responsibility for the changes.

The employees have identified the problem. They have proposed the solution. They have implemented the change.

And now, they have monitored the impact of the change.


Principle 5


Improvement is reflective


Regular feedback about how things are going is another important principle of the model.

It's important to establish communication channels between employees and management at each stage of the improvement plan. This ensures that employees stay engaged with the process and that the improvement goals are on track.

Ensuring the improvement is reflective is one of the most challenging aspects of the continuous improvement model.

It can be extremely time-consuming for management to stay on top of every stage of the improvement plan. As a result, it's common for meetings to get re-scheduled and emails to get stuck in the inbox.

That's why it's essential that you open up communication and collaboration in real-time. Employees keep up-to-date reports on the program, while management can monitor the relevant improvements.


Principle 6


Improvement is measurable and potentially repeatable


It's important to be aware that "change" and "improvement" are not always the same thing.

Sometimes businesses identify problems within their organizations and seek to make changes for the sake of change without considering whether it is the right change.

How can you know whether the change has resulted in an improvement? You have to ensure that the outcomes of improvements are measurable and repeatable.

By finding tools and indicators to measure the effectiveness of the outcomes, you can assess whether the change resulted in an improvement. This way you can establish whether to apply the change to other aspects of your organization.

Ensuring that you get a return on your investment is an essential part of the continuous improvement model.


Implementing the Continuous Improvement Model for Your Business


Now you know the six principles of the continuous improvement model.

Implementing continuous improvement in your organization is about altering your company culture. This allows you to ensure small changes result in big improvements and innovations over time.

This way, you can achieve sustainable and long-term growth and development for your business.

There are many different methods of implementing continuous improvement. They all share the same six principles that have been outlined in this blog post.

Do you want to learn more about how to improve your business?

Check out our blog for more tips and advice on leadership development, management practices, organizational culture cultivation, and an agile mindset.

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