Process for Continual Improvement

Continual improvement should be a key strategy for every organization. Improvement actions enhance the features and characteristics of products, as well as, increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the processes that produce and deliver the products.

There are two fundamental approaches for improving performance: breakthrough projects and small-step improvements. Breakthrough projects typically lead to major revisions of existing processes or the implementation of new processes. Cross-functional teams usually carry out these breakthrough activities outside of routine operations. Existing work teams implement small-step improvements within current processes.

An organization should continually seek to improve its processes instead of waiting for problems to reveal improvement opportunities. A process must, therefore, be in place to identify and manage improvement projects.

The improvement process includes:

  • Selecting an area for improvement
  • Evaluating the existing process
  • Setting objectives for improvement
  • Analyzing root causes of problems
  • Searching for possible solutions
  • Evaluating these solutions
  • Implementing the selected solution
  • Analyzing the implementation results
  • Formalizing the changes

For more information, refer to ISO/DIS 9000 clause 3.9 on Continual Improvement, ISO/DIS 9001 clause 8.5 on Improvement, and ISO/DIS 9004 annex B on Process Methodology for Improvement.