Continuous improvement for businesses: necessary or optional?

Posted by Tiffany Leung on 25 Apr


Wouldn't it be great to run a business which improved day by day? Traditionally many businesses tend to run on a static basis. Brands were known for their specific goods and services, and top-down approaches from management led to efficient, but static, company cultures are often the norm.

In today's rapidly-changing and unforgiving trading environment, it is difficult to oppose the need to change. In all industries, there is an argument that continuous improvement is a crucial part of a business and implementing it in any field will reap rewards and help increase and maintain a competitive advantage.

Why implement continuous improvement? 

It is not the easiest thing to implement and can be hard work, but it has numerous benefits. Through regular reviews businesses can constantly refine internal processes, leading to increased workplace productivity, efficiency, and quality. This kind of shift requires a change from a top-down to a bottom-up mindset - which would help improve workers' job satisfaction and promotes community and loyalty within the organisational culture.

Businesses will gain the ability to be more responsive to changes such as consumer preferences or market trends. This means it is the business can stay competitive in a rapidly changing global market and make it easier to attract and retain high-quality staff. Incremental, small changes for the better means minimal disruption to the organisation's day-to-day activities. In turn, this will add up to significant improvements over the long-term.

What steps can you take to achieve continuous improvement? 

For continuous improvement to be successful, you may need to tweak your business processes. Here are the steps you can take to create a workplace where continuous improvement can thrive:

Invest in training

The first step should be ensuring that your staff are thoroughly trained, and their skill set matches the job requirement. This serves two purposes; it can directly improve productivity and quality of work in the short term, and it can also empower your staff to flag up potential improvements in the future. Spending a little time making sure that your workforce knows the reasoning behind processes, and the company's big-picture goals, can reap dividends in the future. Highlight the benefits of continuous improvement so that your staff begin to understand its use.

Formalise a strategy

Ensure that your continuous improvement strategy is clearly articulated. This helps create a positive mindset and holds people accountable by pinpointing your requirements from each department. At the start of the process, you will need to keep reminding people about continuous improvement practices, so it's important to set clear expectations in the beginning. Show clear examples of how continuous improvement should work.

Set up monitoring systems

The basic strategy for this can be visualised in the PDCA wheel: "plan, do, check, act". Set up monitoring systems to allow your employees to record processes and monitor these to find out where improvements can be made.

Create a positive working environment

Each person in your organisation needs to feel like they can speak up when something needs to be improved. Inculcate a strong, positive company culture where your workforce feels supported – this could be as simple as setting up monthly checking-in meetings with team leaders or bringing pizza for everyone to share on Fridays.

How to encourage company-wide continuous improvement? 

A strong company culture which empowers employees to speak up will serve you well. Set appropriate KPIs, and reward good performance, to create a motivated, ambitious workforce with less turnover. Remember that continuous improvement doesn't mean change for change's sake; it's about adding value. It's also a long-term mindset. Even if no improvements need to be made right now, plan for flexibility so that when the opportunity comes knocking, you'll be waiting and ready to jump.


Topics: Business Efficiency, Productivity, Management

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