An Overview of a Business Continuous Improvement Cycle

Operational Excellence,

Whether you refer to it as a plan, cycle, model or continuum, look at any continuous improvement cycle diagram and you’ll see that the basic premise is the same.

In essence, the primary every brand of continuous quality improvement cycle begins with the same idea: a specific design or methodology. It is a strategy intended to achieve increased production and efficiency. Continuous improvement cycle, in short, is a phrase denoting a plan of action designed to increase business profits when it is put into action. It is also known as a plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle.

What Is a Continuous Improvement Plan?

A Continuous improvement cycle consists of a number of sequential steps. These steps vary slightly from one design to the next, or from one company to another. However, they are all intended to measure the effect a company’s policies and operating procedures have upon its production and profitability. An ongoing improvement cycle starts with a unique scheme, which is then placed into action. After a predetermined amount of time has elapsed, the plan is evaluated, adjusted, and put back in place. In this way, a company’s proficiency and financial performance is constantly evolving upward.

What Makes for a Successful Continuous Improvement Method?

Surprisingly (or not), a key ingredient in any PDCA cycle of continuous improvement is employee involvement. Specifically, employees who will be impacted by the changes being instituted. Equally specifically, involvement at the stages of planning and evaluation is referenced. Continuous improvement plans are typically the province of either upper management or else the default responsibility of an assigned project manager. In some companies, particularly larger ones, there exists a schism of awareness between workers and management. When workers are included in the key stages of planning and evaluation, the details of the resulting plans tend to be both more relevant and more effective.

Is There Anything Else That Makes an Improvement Plan Effective?

Yes. In addition to involving key employees, it is also helpful when management gets involved at the production level and works alongside the employees affected by the plan. In fact, this sort of “walk the talk” leadership is often credited as the primary reason a continuous improvement plan succeeds. Employees respect managers who have demonstrated the willingness and ability to perform their jobs and that show appreciation. In addition, management’s focus has much to do with an initiative’s success. It is important to focus on and reward problem prevention. Patience is equally important, as are long-term goals. All concerned do well to acknowledge that improvement is, essentially, a process, and not an event.

Is Continuous Improvement a Specific or General Type of Plan?

It is both. It’s common to find a continuous improvement cycle template that applies broadly to any number of different industries, such as those that provide services as well as manufacture products. An continual improvement approach might be applied to a given company as a whole as well as to various departments, teams, or even internal processes. The goal with any type of consistent progression is to achieve small, incremental improvements over time. The circular nature of the cycle model, with its built-in pauses for evaluation and adjustment, provides ample and necessary opportunity for feedback and discussion. Improvements are measured and documented, and overall business progression is thoughtful.

The precepts that govern continuous organisational change—design, execution, evaluation, and improvement—apply with equal effectiveness across a broad spectrum of models. Corporations, educational institutions, nonprofits and civic groups all benefit from the application of such a strategy. Although the end products of such organisations may vary, their goals are remarkably similar. After all, who wouldn’t like to achieve more while using less, and do so in a shorter length of time and, ultimately, end up the better for having done so?

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