Best Practices for Continuous Improvement

By: Chris Bible, Program Manager 

Our customers are the reason that our business exists. Consistent conformance to our customer’s expectations is critical to our success. By striving to exceed our customer’s expectations, we can set the bar for quality standards higher, and differentiate our company in the eyes of our customers. We must ensure that we are agile, and that we can rapidly adapt to changing customer needs. To continually improve our customer’s experience, we must work to continually improve our business processes and practices. Here are the elements that are critical for successful continual improvement: 

Choose an improvement opportunity – Use internal or external customer feedback to gain insight into areas within the business that could be improved. Consider the customer’s perspective to help identify areas where value can be added. 

Develop a team – Ensure that there is understanding and agreement with Management and within the team regarding the team’s scope, then empower the team to take action and drive the improvement process. 

Assess the current situation – Use measurable metrics to determine the baseline, “as is” situation. For continuous improvement, is critical to ensure that key performance metrics are understood, and that they can be quantified and measured. If we can’t measure it, we can’t manage it. 

Take action – After the “as is” situation is documented, work with process owners, subject matter experts, key stakeholders or customers to develop an action plan to make an improvement. 

Analyze results – Validate that the actions taken have improved the situation. Quantify the level of effectiveness, and validate that the actions taken have met the improvement goals. Identify any existing areas of uncertainty, and decide if further action is required. 

Put controls in place – After the improvement has been made, do whatever is needed to ensure that the improvement is sustained. Put adequate measurement and monitoring practices in place. Manage the change. Implement a control plan to establish organizational visibility, and to ensure that the improved practice or process is communicated throughout the organization, and to all stakeholders. 

Review outcomes – After the change has been in place for a while, take a look back to ensure that the improvement has been sustained. Critically analyze the post- improvement data that has been collected after the change was made, and compare it to the original baseline data. Make any corrections that are deemed necessary, and be sure to communicate and celebrate success with the team. 

Plan for the future – Continually seek feedback from the customer, and plan to address any additional areas of opportunity. Review lessons-learned from projects, and actively assess areas for potential improvement. 

By having a culture of continuous improvement, we have visibility to areas of opportunity for improvement, rapidly adapt and make changes, and ensure that we are doing what is best for our customers.