Navigating the world of continuous improvement

The ultimate guide for navigating continuous improvement

Guide to Continuous Improvement

What is Continuous Improvement?

Continuous Improvement. It isn’t new. It is simple in principle, and yet so hard to get right. In a world driven by consistency and standardization, why are there so many ways of doing this?

Perhaps you are early or starting out in your journey into this world. Or, like many of us have, you face a challenge, an impasse within your business and you are searching for clarity or a bit of inspiration.

Regardless, what you are reading will hopefully explain and demystify some of these topics and share some pragmatic advice based on 20 years of success (and failure).

We will briefly explore how the different improvement worlds have evolved, what they have in common, but also, crucially, what divides them.

In our guide we will outline some of the deployment methods that exist and in what context they are applied.

On top of that, we will share some top tips that work in terms of key success criteria to look for, how to build out the required roles to make your deployment work, and some of the challenges associated with making this work across a plethora of industries.

The loudest, most consistent challenge we continue to hear from experts or novices in this industry is the confusing variation that exists across different companies and consultancies when it comes to the what and how of improvement.

When is it Continuous Improvement vs Process Improvement? Why are some companies doing Lean and some doing Six Sigma – or both?

What to expect in this improvement guide

– History of Lean and Six Sigma
– How improvement has been impacted by evolutions in capacity and demand
– 6 common principles of improvement, regardless of the method applied
– A summary of tools and techniques at 3 levels (with a summary of the associated tools and techniques):
– Operational basics / Daily Management
– Improvement as a project
– A focus on the phases of a DMAIC project and associated core toolsMore complex Improvement Projects
– More sophisticated Six Sigma and Lean applications
– The challenges and success criteria for Continuous Improvement
– Building a team and culture for improvement to thrive
– The benefits and value of Continuous Improvement

Unwavering commitment to excellence

Sure, there are many factors behind success – a great product or service, growing market opportunity, overall stick market confidence to name but three. But all things equal, what sets market leaders apart from the competition is their commitment to continuous improvement. That steadfast commitment starts at the top yet can be found in every corner of the organization and at every level; a commitment to continuously improve and not accept second best. And that heartbeat of improvement is what leads to breakthrough performance and sustained results.

Learning from the best

One size does not fit all and most organizations depend on a number of proven methodologies to drive their continuous improvement activities. As organizations mature operational excellence, they become masters at introducing emerging best practices and embedding them into the very fabric of the organization.

Leading operational excellence solutions support these different methodologies, automating key processes with workflow and providing real time visibility into performance as initiatives progress through their lifecycle, from charter to results.

What’s more, some solutions help align these initiatives, regardless of methodology, with strategic objectives and even measure and report realized value.


A systematic method for waste minimization (‘muda’) within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden (‘muri’) and waste created through unevenness in work loads (‘mura’).

Six Sigma

A disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects in any process; from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.


A workplace organization method that helps identify abnormal situations requiring immediate correction. 5s refers to five Japanese words: seiri, seiton, seiso, seiketsu and shitsuke. These translate to: sort, set (in order), shine/attract, standardize and sustain.

Project management

The practice of initiating, planning, executing, controlling, and closing the work of a team in order to achieve specific success criteria, by a specified time.

Developing your PMO capability

Large organizations run hundreds of these continuous improvement initiatives simultaneously. That’s why organizations develop an Enterprise Project Management Office (PMO) capability: to define and maintain standards for project (and program) management, and coordinate the organization’s continuous improvement initiatives.

Depending on corporate culture, business needs and system maturity, the degree of PMO control and influence varies significantly between organizations; from a consultative or coaching ‘hands-off’ support role to a directive function that takes control of projects.

Regardless of model, the modern PMO champions standardization, achieves tangible economies of scale, and provides real time visibility into progress and results.


Continuous Improvement in 2020 & Beyond

Discover how organizations are evolving their Continuous Improvement to deliver profitable growth and realize their goals with unprecedented success in this joint webinar with Kaizen Institute.

Getting started

Learn more about continuous improvement.

Maturity model

Use our model to assess your level of operational excellence


View our list of recommended Continuous Improvement resources to improve your project execution


Discover i-nexus’ capabilities in goal management, initiative management, and performance management.


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i-nexus Continuous Improvement overview

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