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What Does Continuous Improvement Really Mean?

Numerous U.S. businesses have adopted the continuous improvement process with great success. Continuous improvement, also known as kaizen, merges Japanese best practices with American business principles to continually identify and eliminate the root causes of problems.

Uncovering the Root Cause

Here is an example of the value of uncovering the root cause:

If an employee is always late arriving to work, she might tell you that she woke up late. When you ask if she uses her cellphone’s alarm clock, she tells you, between yawns, that she generally hits the snooze button. Further inquiry reveals that she does not go to bed until 11 p.m. And, after asking more questions, you learn that she is taking care of an elderly parent who is sick and the nurse leaves at 5 p.m. So the root cause of her tardiness is the need for round-the-clock care for an ill parent.

By discovering the root causes of problems, companies can set up the correct strategies to fix them.

Why Continuous Improvement Matters

Kaizen or continuous improvement is a valuable way to enhance processes, services and products, which accounts for its popularity in operations management. Here are the four steps of kaizen, in essence:

  • Create a plan detailing what needs to be improved.
  • Do the action in the plan on a small scale.
  • Check the results of the action and analyze the data.
  • Act on the data. If the action was successful, implement the plan on a larger scale. If the plan failed, start over.

Questions to Ask when Using Kaizen

Before beginning a kaizen process at your organization, consider these questions:

  • What should be changed in the business?
  • What exactly are we trying to grow more of?
  • Do we need to lower costs?
  • Should we diversify our product mix?

Continuous improvement helps operations management leaders determine what to change and what to maintain. You can get in-depth resources in an online MBA program. Through courses in advanced economic analysis, operations management decision-making, management and marketing courses, you will gain an understanding of the role that continuous improvement plays in a successful business.

Learn more about the UT Tyler online MBA program.


Sources:

Systematizing Continuous Improvement: It’s Not About the Methodology or Tools

Continuous Improvement

Why is continuous improvement important?

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