Continuous improvement means more than just improvement

A salt mine in Salzburg, AustriaWhenever I read about continuous improvement, I’m always a little surprised that the improvement part is only a small part of the equation.

After all, if you are simply “improving”, you may think you’re doing a great service to your organization, but in fact, you may simply be spinning your wheels!

In order to really and truly improve, you need to know a few things:

  • What needs to be improved
  • What you are actually improving compared to what needs to be improved; whether or not you are improving the right things
  • The impact of your improvements; whether or not your improvements are doing any good
  • The cost of your improvements in time, budget, and resources; whether or not it’s worth doing the things you’re doing, and what the opportunity costs of improvements are in terms of projects or other improvements

Looked at it this way, actually improving things in your company is a very small step, and depending on what you’re improving, it may actually be the wrong step! Continuous improvement requires a great deal of commitment in both planning, execution, and monitoring and controlling.

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