CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT DEFINED
Are you wondering what the definition is of continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement is defined as an ongoing effort to improve a product, service, or process. Small changes or incremental improvements over time add up to significant progress.
Continuous improvement came out of the popularity with the Lean, Agile, and Kaizen methods in business and manufacturing. Lean and Agile focus on continuous improvement along with customer service and reduction of waste with cost and time. Kaizen involves the visualization of workflows, integrating continuous improvement.
Continuous Improvement Benefits
With complex projects, deadlines and priorities are constantly changing. Projects have one large goal — completion! Making large leaps to get big sections of a project completed can lead to burnout and leave you frustrated when you realize what you did failed and you need to backtrack.
Think about it like traveling. If your goal is to travel to every state in the United States, are you going to accomplish that in one big trip? Or are you going to take many small trips over a period of time? Which path would be more likely to lead you to your goal successfully?
Small choices may not make big differences immediately, but they add up over time.
Continuous improvements allow you to have regular feedback intervals. User testing of products, services, and processes at each interval enables you to get vital feedback to help you improve all along the way to project completion.
Continuous improvement has been shown to empower employees and make them feel more engaged. Employees can solve problems on their own and improve efficiencies in their work.
Although sometimes less obvious, continuous improvement helps provide a better customer experience. You can minimize time and costs for the client by making small improvements over time rather than large fixes that fail and have to be redone — after the client has already waited for months waiting to see some progress.
Successful Projects with Continuous Improvement
Many times with project work, problems arise that need to be addressed immediately. Often referred to as “fires,” these issues distract the team from solving larger issues that will have a big impact on the company. Teams find themselves working harder, rather than smarter.
Rather than fighting fires, think more along the lines of fire prevention. What can we do now that will prevent one issue from becoming a major distraction?
Continuous improvement is not merely what catches our eye at the moment. Don’t jump at the next biggest thing while everything else grinds to a halt. Successful continuous improvement is a practice that needs to be sustained and maintained over a long period of time.
By improving products, services, and processes continually, opportunities for growth will be found, and improvements can be measured and evaluated.
What has your experience been with continuous improvement? Please share your thoughts in the section for comments below.
To learn more about custom software development and continuous improvement, download your copy of “How to Plan a Successful Custom Software Project.”