7 Steps to Build a Continuous Improvement Culture

April 28, 2017 by Andy CroweAndy Crowe



After World War II, new theories about quality began to be implemented. Many of these ideas were brought to Japan and embraced by the country as it rebuilt in the years after the war. These ideas would ultimately change manufacturing and the world.

“Continuous improvement” was one of these ideas. The Japanese distilled the essence of this idea to a single word: “kaizen.” It is a quality philosophy that includes improvement of the product, the processes the design and produce them, and the way the teams carry out those processes.

For example, the old way would take a product, get it into its category, optimize the process, and sit back and make money. In fact, we even talk about mature products as being a “cash cow.” Or, something you milk for cash as long as it produces.

Kaizen, however, is part of a different way of looking at things. A product or a process will likely never be “good enough.” As the name implies, the goal is to never stop improving.

This idea can make a tremendous difference in the product you manufacture today and how you do it. But what if your company doesn’t practice kaizen? In this article, we will explore seven ways to create a culture of continuous improvement in your organization–even if you’re starting from scratch.

It’s important to remember that changing the culture of an organization is notoriously difficult. Companies are (in)famous for starting an initiative and then quietly abandoning it, and that is especially true for something like continuous improvement.

Kaizen is not flashy, and it’s not instantly transformative. It takes time to implement, and the benefits realization can sometimes be agonizingly slow.

This isn’t just some new initiative. It’s a culture change, and changing the culture is one of the most difficult things a leader can undertake.

In the 1990s movie “What About Bob”, Bill Murray plays Bob, a man paralyzed by decisions until his psychologist suggests that he practice “baby steps.” While this strategy backfires for the psychologist, those looking to implement a culture of continuous improvement will benefit from the advice.  It takes baby steps.

If you are ready to try to implement a culture of continuous improvement in your organization, these seven steps will help you get there.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement will not only help make the product better. It helps make the teams and the organizations better, and like compounding interest, the benefits keep coming.

Looking for more tips to help you save time, increase productivity and motivate your team? Check out our guide, “5 Practical Habits for Today’s Project Manager”, as well as our productivity toolkit.  



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