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Continuous improvement

  • So far, productivity improvement has been prompted by cardinal alarm bells ringing
  • However, managers should not wait for this to happen – they should be forever looking for different ways to improve
  • ‘Kaizen’ is the Japanese word for continuous improvement (CI) – kai is change, zen is good – it’s the Japanese way of doing business
  • There’s no special improvement projects involved
  • CI involves everyone in an organisation, all managers and employees, working in small teams to come up with ways to make small improvements “day in, day out”


Aims of CI:

  • To make lots of minor improvements to products, services or processes
  • To extend product and service ranges
  • To offer the same product or service at a lower price (or higher margin)
  • To provide a new or better product or service – at a higher price even
  • To incorporate a new convenience (add more value)
  • To create a new (customer) want
  • To find new uses for old products

Peter Drucker

  • Every small contribution to productivity improvement is deemed to be useful
  • As Dr Deming noted, “the big gain is not the £500 per year that the men saved, it’s that the men can take pride in the improvement”
  • But when thousands of small, incremental improvements are made, the big gain can also be enormous financially for the organisation
  • Just as it was for David Brailsford, UK ‘Team Sky’ coach, when winning the 2012 Tour de France – he put it all down to “the aggregation of marginal gains”

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