How to ensure continuous process improvement

Every organization depends on business processes. The more seamless and efficient the processes, the more likely the organization is to succeed. But to be successful over the long term, it’s essential to keep refining processes. Enter continuous process improvement.

Continuous process improvement explained

Continuous process improvement involves small, incremental changes to a set of steps over time with the intention of improving the process in some way, whether that’s making it more efficient or ensuring more consistent outcomes.

“It’s about seeking perfection in all processes and at all levels of the organization. Think of it more as a journey than a destination,” says Daniel Edds, a 25-year veteran in management consulting and author of two books on leadership and management. 

Edds notes that your entire workforce — from the top down — needs to engage in continuous process improvement and maintain a collaborative mindset for it to be truly effective. Though seeking perfection is inherent in the practice, he advises against thinking in such absolute terms.

“Perfection is the enemy of greatness, as the saying goes. It’s more realistic to focus on making your processes a little better every year,” he explains.

Ultimately, Edds says the goal of continuous process improvement is growing customer value. “It’s critical in today’s market to provide more and more value to stay ahead of competitors, increase revenue, and increase retention.”

Examples of continuous process improvement

In the healthcare industry, hospitals and clinics are constantly striving to create the perfect patient experience. It’s unlikely they’ll ever reach perfection, but at a minimum, they continue to remove friction from the experience. 

“Continuous process improvement helps guide the actions of healthcare professionals as they navigate processes surrounding the patient experience,” Edds explains.

Edds also provides an example from the manufacturing industry. One of his clients wanted to eliminate waste from its design and manufacturing processes.

After some initial success, the client now practices continuous process improvement and ensures all 200+ employees help find and eliminate waste wherever they see it. The most notable result of these efforts is the cost savings the company has been able to pass on to customers.

Misconceptions about continuous process improvement

“The biggest misconception about this practice is that it’s limited to operations,” says Edds. “Continuous process improvement should be instituted across every functional area to reap the full benefits at the organizational level.”

Where can you apply continuous process improvement? Here are a few example areas:

  • Marketing. Look at the way you engage with customers and gather feedback. How are you conducting surveys? Are you following up with customers? If so, how?
  • Strategy. Edds says most companies consider only the customer component of strategy. But effectively linking strategy to business processes means considering employees’ perspectives, as they’re the ones executing the processes.
  • Innovation. How do you generate new knowledge within the organization? Edds notes that this can be a huge challenge for some organizations, resulting in stalled growth.

Ways to foster continuous process improvement

To ensure that your organization practices continuous process improvement, Edds recommends focusing on these areas:

  • Culture. The continuous aspect of process improvement starts with an organization’s culture. “You must develop a culture that lives and breathes this practice,” he says.
  • Leadership. The leaders of an organization must support the practice and culture by reinforcing continuous process improvement with their words and actions.
  • Workforce. The organization needs to encourage and reward employees who are consistently executing processes and focusing on process improvement — not just when a supervisor is monitoring their work or asking for status updates.

In addition to these more conceptual approaches, you should also use solutions that support continuous process improvement. Jotform, an easy-to-use form builder and information collection tool, is one solution that can help you with your efforts.

Jotform has hundreds of prebuilt form templates you can use to streamline your processes. For example, you can use survey forms to gauge customer and employee opinions and request forms to make the processing of IT service requests and vacation requests more efficient. Plus, since everything is stored and organized in one place, you can easily review collected information to improve processes over time. Get started with a Jotform template today.


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