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:

Set a Direction

Define the Value

Value Stream Map
Where is value added?

Link your Vision and Decisions

Long term goals must have explicit links to actionable metrics:

Financial Example:

Define Standards Required to Fulfill Vision

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

Through discipline comes freedom
Work to Standards

Improve Continuously

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


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?

Balance Perspectives

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

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

On Demand

Pull > Push

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
  • 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

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