Go Beyond: Continuous Improvement Concepts and Tools

While continuous improvement can be difficult to begin and maintain, people have validated many concepts and tools to help along the way:

1. Align – Set a Direction


2. Assess – Understand the situation

While blind spots are dangerous in any context, several templates can help to expose and address:

Seek Win/Win

The more stakeholders can win, the greater the chance of success.

Fishbone Diagram

Visualization of broad categories of factors being considered

AKA Ishikawa Diagram


3. Advance – Continuously Improve

For true continuous improvement, cycles of improvement are always followed by another cycle. Here are some cycles for common contexts:

Through discipline comes freedom
Work to Standards

Without standards, there can be no improvement.” – Taichi Ohno


Plan: What will we try and how? How will we know if it is successful?

Do: Try the idea, collecting data and insights throughout

Check/Study: Review and analyze results

Act: Decide whether to adopt the idea and move onto the next idea, adapt and try again, or abandon the idea and move onto another idea


Sort: What is valuable enough to keep/continue? What should be removed/stopped?

Simplify: How can we organize to maximize value?

Sweep: How can we make the important aspects intuitive enough for people collaborate effectively?

Standardize: How can we be explicit about our choices so that everyone can take the best actions?

Sustain: How do we ensure that progress is not only maintained, but fostered?


General Concepts and Tools for Continuous Improvement

Be Proactive
  • Delaying pain leads to more in the future
  • Not my fault, still my problem
  • It is always now
  • Externalize setup
Address the Exceptional

80:20 Rule (Pareto)
At least 80% of an outcome, good or bad, results from 20% of the inputs

One Piece Flow

From bipolar to continuous flow

Singles > batches

Level the load

Balance the burden over time/space/people/equipment to ensure reliable results

Daily Visual Management
  • Make work visible, visual, and actionable on a daily basis
  • Evidence-based decisions > Decision-based evidence
  • Status at a glance
Autonomous Solutions
  • Build intelligence throughout the system
  • Using technology to support instead of control
  • Jidoka (in Japanese)
Go to the Source
  • Decisions and analysis should be located at or next to the efforts affected
  • Stop and see
  • Anything but truth is tyranny
  • “Go to the Gemba”
A3 Problem Solving

Create a clear relationship between problem and solutions within a single page/screen:

  • Problem
  • Context
  • Root Cause(s)
  • Goal(s)
  • Plan to resolve
  • Metrics