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Continuous Improvement

What is continuous improvement?


Continuous improvement is the continuous improvement of business processes, products or services through incremental or groundbreaking improvements.

What is continuous improvement?


Continuous improvement is the continuous improvement of business processes, products or services through incremental or groundbreaking improvements.

Incremental improvements are efforts made over time to improve something. Groundbreaking changes are major breakthroughs or improvements all at once.


Continuous improvement helps companies identify improvements for work processes and improve waste. This is central to the Lean principles.

Lean and Six Sigma give context to the term continuous improvement, which can otherwise be quite abstract. Continuous improvement is also called Kaizen in Lean management terms.

Kaizen originated in Japan, shortly after the end of World War II. It became one of the most successful principles behind Toyota’s production unit. Sakichi Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno are considered the founders of this important discipline within quality management.

Continuous improvement strives to improve operations that provide the most value to the customer while eliminating as much waste as possible. Zero Defects, developed by Philip Crosby, goes one step further. This method strives for absolute perfection in production.

Muda, Mura, Muri

Within LEAN Manufacturing and Gemba Kaizen there are three types of waste.

Muda (wastefulness)

Muda consists of the seven main wastes found in processes:

  1. Transportation
  2. Inventory
  3. Motion
  4. Waiting
  5. Overproduction
  6. Over-processing
  7. Defects

It is nearly impossible to completely remove all waste in these 7 areas, but focusing on minimizing it is crucial.

Mura (unevenness)

Mura is created by inconsistencies in the process. It is therefore responsible for many of the 7 wastes of Muda. Mura is the cause of inefficient flows through the work process and therefore stands in the way of a continuous and efficient flow of efforts.

Muri (overburden)

Mura is a problem for companies using push systems. Assigning too much work to a team or machine creates unnecessary stress. Mura is often the result of Mura. It ensures that people keep playing catch up, so to speak.

PDCA cycle

The PDCA cycle is an improvement cycle based on the principles of Lean and Kaizen. It is widely used in combination with tools such as Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) or Business Process Mapping (BPM) to implement changes, measure results and take appropriate measures. The PDCA cycle is also known as the Deming cycle, named after W. Edwards Deming, who introduced the concept in the 1950s.

PDCA consists of four phases:

  1. Plan
  2. Do
  3. Check
  4. Act


Continuously improving business processes is the most important way companies reduce operational overheads.

Applying the Lean principles enables efficient workflows that save time and money. This reduces wasted time and effort. Every project has opportunities to improve, but often no one has taken that chance yet.

It is important for a project manager to know what the costs will be to complete a sprint or project. For this reason, most management firms benefit from knowing how much time it takes to get certain types of work done.

Project managers can therefore reduce project costs and avoid surpluses. They do this with Forecasting Software, a combination of software and data management.

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Tips and tricks

The articles linked to the continuous improvement tag deal with the various methods, techniques and theories related to this topic. Missing a topic about continuous improvement? Let us know in the comments or send an email.

Gemba Kaizen explained

September 20th, 2023

Gemba Kaizen: this article explains the concept of Gemba Kaizen. Next to what it is (the definiton and meaning), this article also highlights explanation of the gemba walk, principles and objectives of Gemba Kaizen, the workplace and the advantages.…

Agile Crystal Method explained

September 15th, 2023

Agile Crystal Method: in this article, the Agile Crystal Method, developed by Alistair Cockburn is practically explained. The article contains the definition of this method, information about its origins and practical tips to use in real life. Enjoy reading!…

One Point Lesson (OPL)

September 8th, 2023

One point lesson (OPL): this article explains the one point lesson in a practical way. The article starts with the definition and meaning of this concept. An explanation then follows of how it works exactly and you will find practical…

Quality Assurance (QA)

September 4th, 2023

Quality assurance (QA): this article explains the concept of Quality Assurance or QA in a practical way. The article contains the definition of the term, followed by an explanation of the two main principles and their efficiency. You will also…

Business Process Improvement (BPI)

September 4th, 2023

Business Process Improvement: this article provides a practical explanation of Business Process Improvement (BPI). Highlights include: what the methodology of BPI is, BPI tools and examples, the BPI general cycle explained and a summary. After reading, you’ll have a…

Philip Crosby biography and books

September 4th, 2023

Philip Crosby (Philip Bayard Crosby; June 18, 1926 – August 18, 2001) was a businessman and author and is recognized as an influential quality guru. He is best known for the quality management concepts Quality is Free, Zero
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