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Continuous improvement is a model used by businesses or individuals to become more efficient. It uses self-reflection and feedback to drive change in processes that can save time or money.
How can your business practice continuous improvement? Read our guide for more information on the benefits, how to create a continuous improvement plan, and the best tools to use.
The continuous improvement definition is to reduce waste by streamlining processes. It’s used by businesses to save money and time, as well as take advantage of new opportunities.
Continuous improvement is often referred to as “Kaizen”, which translates to “good change” or “improvement” in Japanese.
The principles of continuous improvement are aligned to agile methodologies such as Kanban and the lean manufacturing process.
Continuous improvement can be used informally by employees to make changes to their daily processes. Larger companies are more likely to formalise continuous improvement by taking an agile approach.
The model is most commonly used by project managers, although the principles can be useful for any employee from junior staff members right up to the CEO.
Using continuous improvement techniques has a range of advantages for individuals and businesses. Here’s an overview:
When creating a continuous improvement framework, you’ll need to focus on self-reflection, reducing inefficiencies, and taking gradual steps to improve.
One of the simplest ways to get started, either for the business, a particular project, or as an individual, is to use the continuous improvement cycle.
This is how it works:
You’ll need to repeat this process to keep improving and reducing all ineffective or inefficient processes.
Here are some other key steps to include in your plan:
Having a continuous improvement plan helps people to be accountable for development, whether it’s for a specific product or on an individual basis.
Regularly going back to the plan means that good intentions don’t go out the window when a busy schedule gets in the way. A good comparison to make is when people give up on their new year’s resolutions after a few weeks.
Whether you’re looking to use continuous improvement to streamline a product or service, develop on a personal level, or improve something wider like business compliance or culture, there's a range of techniques you could include, such as:
There's a range of tools you can use to implement a continuous improvement model for your business.
One of the simplest is a project management tool called a Gantt chart. Read our in-depth guide on how to create a Gantt chart to get started.
You can also use project management software or use a continuous improvement plan template. Here are some examples of well-known tools businesses use to adopt Kaizen principles:
Do you have any unanswered questions about continuous business improvement? Let us know in the comments below.
Conor Shilling is a Copywriter at Simply Business with over two years’ experience in the insurance industry. A trained journalist, Conor has worked as a professional writer for 10 years. His previous experience includes writing for several leading online property trade publications. Conor specialises in the buy-to-let market, landlords, and small business finance.
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