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What are the 4 Principles of Continuous Process Improvement and their Importance to your Mindset?

Continuous improvement is defined as the ongoing development of products, services, or processes through both “incremental” improvement (over time) and “breakthrough” improvement (immediate and all at once).

Organisations require a systematic approach to plan, action, and implement continuous improvement. By using data with a common language (and methodology), this enables management teams to understand the improvement process and ensure that there is always a linkage back to your own organisational goals and priorities.

The Continuous Process Improvement Model

The four-step (4) Quality Assurance Model is one of the most widely used tools for the Continuous Process Improvement model – the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle. It emphasises your employee teamwork, their involvement to work together to measure and improve their processes, by reducing any variations and the respective cycle times

By continuing to cycle through these steps, process improvement has continually been worked on, evaluation is consistently measured, each phase builds upon the previous phase, and then feeds into the next phase. Here are the outlines of (4) principles of continuous improvement:

1. Plan

  • Measure current standards and identify improvement opportunities.
  • Identify how those improvements should be implemented.
  • Set objectives, prepare your Action Plan, and then plan for change.

2. Do

  • Implement your Action Plan for the changes identified, but on a small scale.
  • Provide any training required (for teams) to increase awareness of process change.
  • Ensure that add in any Controls Framework to avoid potential problems.

3. Check

  • Use data measurements to analyse the results of the change.
  • Ensure that you compare the data measurements (new v. prior, to the change) – this Gap Analysis is critically important!
  • Analyse your data results and then implement any corrective or preventative actions to ensure that the desired outcome has been achieved.

4. Act

  • Management Teams will analyse all the data results to determine whether the change will be “permanent” and / or if further adjustment will be required.
  • If the change was successful, then implement change on a wider scale across your organisation BUT ensure that you continuously assess your results, and then look for new ways to make even further improvement.
  • If the change was unsuccessful, then start the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle again.

Why is it important to develop a Continuous Improvement Mindset?

With any new process or the design work for new processes, continuous improvement is more about shifting the mindset and not about adding another process that your team need to learn. It doesn’t have to add your team’s workload, it shouldn’t create extra work, or take significant time to design / implement. These steps simply need to be embedded into your current work environment, which is already being done.

For any processes that are working well, there is no real need to change. What you need to be aware of is that they (may) simply need minor refinement but perhaps, nothing needs to change. Both you and your team know what areas of your organisation that need improvement and the point here is to seek out those areas, engage with other teams, and consciously agree to help (and assist) so that the entire organisation benefits from change.

Remember, continuous improvement is a mindset, not an additional task!

When is the best time to start thinking about Continuous Process Improvement?

This not really a hard question to answer. There simply is no bad time to start using a continuous improvement process, but the obvious benefits are presented when you make a conscious decision to “Act”, start to “Plan”, and then commit to “Do”.

So, below are a summary list of the examples when I believe Continuous Process Improvement should be implemented:

  • Commencement of a ‘new’ project.
  • Scope and development of ‘new’ processes, workflows, and procedures.
  • Development of ‘new’ or improvement of products, or services.
  • Planning phase of data collection, analysis, and required change implementation.
  • Implementing any change (phase) to current processes or procedures.
  • Whenever a failure occurs and /or during any of these events, etc.

What are the main benefits of Continuous Process Improvement?

Every organisation implements Continuous Process Improvement as part of their standard business practice, and which ultimately benefits their product and service delivery to customers. There have been many studies to have shown the main benefits, which can be summarised as:

  • Increased productivity and performance.
  • Better internal synergy, teamwork, motivation, and morale with your employees.
  • Greater business agility in a competitive business environment.
  • Less waste, effort, time, and cost for your organisation.
  • More efficiency, output, and scalability for increased growth projections.
  • Increased customer satisfaction and support of ‘new’ business initiatives.
  • Increase in profitability


The advantages of continuous improvement by adopting a change in mindset puts your business on a completely different, more successful trajectory for scalable growth. Technology, change, and innovation continues to progress at a rapid rate, with increasing pressure on management teams to produce more impactful results.

So don’t just stick to the same old plan, what has always worked well (?) in the past, but embrace disruptive change and the challenge to reinvent your business model. Been innovative can be a huge step for any organisation but if you remain stagnant when change occurs, you’ll be quickly left behind and lose (perhaps) some of your competitive business advantage.

Need some guidance on your next steps? Let’s start a conversation…