Have you ever had a problem reoccur in your business? Even worse, does the problem happen frequently? This can be a significant frustration for anyone, but it is significantly worse when you have a company you are trying to run.  

Fortunately, this is a common occurrence that happens from time to time in all businesses. The best way to stop problems from happening again is to develop a continuous improvement plan. StrategyX is a business development tool that can help with this.

If you’re unfamiliar with continuous improvement, we’ll help give you a quick rundown on the basics of it and some ideas and tools you can immediately utilize.

What is Continuous Improvement?

The American Society for Quality (ASQ) defines continuous improvement as “the ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements.”

In other words: it is vital for companies to have a continuous improvement framework in place to prevent problems from repeating. The framework should serve as a guide for everyone, not just a specific department.

It’s too easy for employees to say something like, “oh yes, we must do something about that,” after something goes wrong and no change occurs.

A framework for continuous improvement will ensure that repeated mistakes will drastically drop (or, hopefully, be eliminated entirely) and provide a resource for new employees to consult.

Methods and Models of Continuous Improvement

There are numerous methods and models for implementing continuous improvement inside of your business. Here is a brief look at a few of them.

The Plan-do-check-act (PDCA) Cycle

The PDCA Cycle is a model that, as implied, has four steps for identifying and implementing continuous improvement. It includes the following:

  • Plan: Think out and make an outline for future changes
  • Do: Slowly, but incrementally, make changes over a set period time.
  • Check: Review the results and data of the changes and determine a conclusion.
  • Act: If the change made a positive impact, keep doing it and continue implementing it going forward. If the change showed little impact or negative impact, review all elements involved and restart the cycle from the plan step.

PDCA is a great model that businesses of all types can utilize and consult to seek out improvements.

Six Sigma

According to The Council for Six Sigma Certification, the Six Sigma Methodology is “a set of business tools, statistical theory, and quality control knowledge that helps improve your business procedures.”

Stated most straightforwardly, Six Sigma is an approach for reducing any element of your business that results in waste, confusion, or anything else that frustrates employees and customers.

Six Sigma is a methodology that all types of businesses can also utilize. However, manufacturing and service-based businesses will see significant improvements when implementing it into their continuous improvement process.

Total Quality Management (TQM)

Another organizational approach to consider is Total Quality Management, also known as TQM.

TQM’s focus is on using strong leadership, technology, and training to seek continuous improvement inside a business.

TQM is like Six Sigma but focuses on improving quality by optimizing existing processes. Six Sigma, in comparison, focuses more on elimination and streamlining processes.

What Should Be Included in a Continuous Improvement Process

There are several things which you should make sure that you have in your “toolbox” when developing a continuous improvement process. Here are just a few quick tips on some of what you absolutely must have.

A Root Cause Analysis (RCA)

The definition of a root cause analysis (RCA) is as locating problems’ root causes and creating solutions from them.

An excellent method for business development and obtaining insight into a problem is to ask ‘why’ five times, known as the 5 Whys Model. By starting with one question and questioning the following four answers to these questions, much insight can be gained into getting a deeper dive into a problem’s root cause.

Developing Temporary Solutions

Known as “sticking a bandage” on a problem, a temporary solution will not be the end-all solution for a problem you are facing. Despite this, there are short-term benefits to developing temporary solutions your employees can utilize.

The main benefit for developing a temporary solution is to ensure that productivity does not grind to a halt. If an intricate, well-thought-out plan will take some time to create and implement, consider developing an easy-to-understand workaround that everyone can use for the short-term.

Creating a Documented, Sustainable Solution 

This is going to be one of the best ways to ensure that a problem doesn’t happen again. Creating a written solution that is both easy to understand and consult will be the best way to prevent problems from reoccurring.

After a solution is created, make sure that all employees are briefed on the solution. Not only that but take steps to actively enforce the solution daily.

When creating a sustainable solution, ensure you have a hierarchy of control in place. This is important and worthy of having an entire section dedicated to it.

Ensure You Have a Hierarchy of Controls

When considering sustainable solutions, all solutions should be considered in order of priority. This order of priority is what hierarchy of controls refers to.

Let’s consider an example of a person was burnt by acid. Here is how a hierarchy of controls would look like in this scenario.

  1. Eliminate Control – Don't use acid
  2. Minimize Control - Use less acid
  3. Substitute Control - Use a different chemical that is less harmful than acid
  4. Engineering Control - Put barriers around the acid to avoid unneeded contact with it
  5. Administrative control - Put a policy in place that tells users how to use acid
  6. PPE Control – Have users wear eyewear, gloves, and other protective gear to protect them from the acid

As you can see, each one of the above controls gets less effective when you go down the list. When developing a hierarchy of controls, choosing sustainable solutions from the top down is essential. For example, if you must use acid, investigate developing protocols to ensure that employees handle a minimal amount of acid.

Final Thoughts

Overall, any problems or continuous improvement opportunities must be captured and put into a framework for resolution; this is the only proper way to achieve the right outcome.

Keeping all of the above in mind, you should consider using a strategic planning software platform like StrategyX to maintain and scale your business. As a top-class strategy execution software, StrategyX will allow you and your company to develop a watertight continuous improvement plan and help with countless other aspects of your business.

Have any questions? We would love to book a free demo with you to discuss how StrategyX can benefit your work and lifestyle. We hope to speak with you soon!