The role of continual improvement is one of the most important principles in any quality management strategy, and enables a core goal for all improvement practices within the organisation. The ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has the following to say about continuous improvement: “continual improvement should be a permanent objective of the organisation.” There are many major benefits that can be seen through continual improvement, including a performance advantage that comes from improved organisational proficiencies, the alignment of improvement strategies at all levels with strategic goals and the flexibility to react promptly to opportunities that may arise.
Continual Improvement Steps for Quality Management
The primary steps that comprise the continual improvement principle in a quality management environment include the following:
- Ensure that continual improvement is a major objective for every individual in the organisation, from the lowest entry level employee all the way through to senior management, directors and CEOs. This should be implemented across all products, services, processes and systems within the organisation.
- Apply the basic principles of gradual improvement as well as breakthrough improvement across the organisation, and ensure that these principles are carried out across all levels of the organisation.
- Use intermittent valuations and assessments against recognised criteria of excellence to detect areas for prospective improvement to ensure that continual improvement principles are being followed as part of quality management strategies within the organisation.
- Constantly improve the proficiency and effectiveness of all processes, to ensure that there is always room to develop processes as a fluid approach rather than a static approach that may rely on outdated processes within the organisation.
- Rather than reaction based actions for problem solving, encourage prevention based actions that aim to prevent even the smallest of problems within processes from becoming larger and harder to manage.
- Equip every employee within the organisation with relevant education, resources and training, on the various strategies and tools of continual improvement such as the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, problem solving, process re-engineering, and process innovation.
- Establish measures and objectives to guide and track improvements through reporting and monitoring, which aims to provide data on the success and potential areas for improvement that are found throughout processes in the organisation.
- Recognise improvements, and acknowledge these improvements so that all levels of employees within the organisation are able to see the results that come from continual improvement strategies, and to motivate them for further improvements over the long-term.
As a vital part of quality management, continual improvement should be the primary goal of any organisation, as an evolving and shifting objective that strives to ensure excellence at all times.