• Donald Davis

Continuous Improvement: Pursuit of Perfection

Updated: Oct 21

Don Davis PhD, MBA



Before I get too far into this post, I should clarify something. I firmly believe in continuous improvement, which is the pursuit of perfection, however, I do not believe in the quest for perfection when it stops you from ever getting something done. Still, we want long-term success and one of the key principles for that is we know how to identify opportunities for improving continuously.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is an essential aspect for many businesses and also part of company culture nowadays. It helps to ensure that the company is always moving forward with operational excellence and improving continuously. Improvement ideas can be achieved through a variety of methods, such as implementing new processes or training employees, or even knowledge sharing new skills.



There are many benefits to Continuous improvements, such as increased efficiency, higher quality products or services, cost savings, reduced waste, and improved customer value. A continuous improvement strategy can help many businesses stay ahead of the competition with other companies, and keep their customer satisfaction.


As I interview entrepreneurs and leaders in Life Sciences on my podcast Life Science Success (www.lifesciencesuccess.com), the idea of preserver or pivot has been a recurring theme. If what you are doing today does not work, adjust, and move forward. This might work for some of the youngest companies but as your organization grows it is important that you reduce waste and cycle times.


Product development teams can fall into this trap where their product meets the regulatory requirements, and is safe. Still, they want to continually develop and make the product better without getting it into the customer’s or patient’s hands.


It may not seem obvious to use this type of thinking about a challenge or a failure in support of a continuous improvement model. However, after studying both Lean and Six Sigma understanding the failure, setting boundaries/limits and developing a better process with less opportunities is fundamental to all continuous improvement approaches.


A first-generation product can be just a starting point that solves initial problems for customers.


Some things to think about:


  1. Iterative reviews in support of continual improvement, scoping documents, and clear timelines help with setting boundaries. As business leaders though, we need to be looking out for products that are in the ongoing improvement of development because the development team is stuck in continual pursuit of perfection.

  2. Is what you are developing well-defined? Does it have a clear stop-and-start? If not you can facilitate continuous improvement by just improving these two items.

  3. If you are improving existing products or existing processes, are there clear targets that you are aiming for? It would be hard to focus on continuous improvement without first understanding where you stand and second having clear targets to aim for.


If you are interested in facilitating continuous improvement for your business, there are a few things to keep in mind. First step, it is important to have a clear goal in mind. What do you hope to achieve through continuous improvement? Once you have a goal, you can begin to implement continuous improvement strategies.


Continuous Improvement Tools

A continuous improvement process takes time and effort, but it is worth it. There are many different continuous improvement tools and techniques that you can use.


Some of the most popular include Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, and Total Quality Management. Do some research to find out which tool will work best for your business.


1. Six Sigma - is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement. It was developed by Motorola in 1986. Six Sigma is now used in many industries, including manufacturing, healthcare, finance, and marketing.



> The goal of Six Sigma is for improvement of quality of the output of a process by reducing the variability of the input.


> Six Sigma quality is achieved when the output of a process meets the requirements of the customer with very little variability. The six sigma process is divided into five steps:

1. Define the problem and the goals

2. Measure the current performance

3. Analyze the causes of variation

4. Improve the process

5. Control the process to maintain the improvements


2. Lean Manufacturing - is a systematic approach that has the ability to enable identifying and eliminating waste in processes across the entire organization. Lean Manufacturing has been adopted by manufacturers around the world as a way to improve quality, reduce costs, and increase efficiency of production process.



The Lean Manufacturing philosophy is based on the following principles:


- Identify value from the perspective of the customer

- Flow the product or service at the pull of the customer

- Identify and eliminate waste

- Continuously improve


Lean Manufacturing has its roots in the Toyota Production System, developed by Taiichi Ohno. The Lean Manufacturing approach has been successfully adopted by manufacturers in a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, electronics, and healthcare. One of my favorite reasons to use lean is because it is a continuous improvement methodology that focuses on action.


3. Total Quality Management (TQM) - is a management philosophy that seeks to continuously improve the quality of an organization's products, services, and processes. TQM is built on the foundation of four principles:



1. Continuous improvement

2. Customer focus

3. Employee engagement

4. Process-oriented


Total quality management is a journey, not a destination. There is no finish line when it comes to the improvement process - it is an ongoing effort. Total quality management requires an employee engagement or commitment from all members of an organization, from senior leadership and front lines employees. Implementing TQM can be a challenge, but the rewards - improved quality, increased customer satisfaction, and higher profitability - are well worth the effort.


Continuous Improvement Model

The continuous improvement model is a systematic way of continuously improving your products, processes, or services. It's also known as the PDCA cycle: Plan Do Check Act cycle. It is based on the principle that there is always improvement opportunities, no matter how good a process or product may be.



This systematic approach has quality management systems consisting of the planning phase, process management, employee involvement, or employee ideas to identify problems as well as identifying the root causes.


The continuous improvement model has four main steps: identify the problem, collect data, analyze the data, and implement solutions. These four steps are then repeated over and over again in a never-ending cycle of improvement.


The continuous improvement model can be used to improve any process or method for creating the product. It is often used in manufacturing and quality control, but it can be applied to any type of business or organization.


Implementing a process improvement model can help an organization to become more efficient and effective. It can also help to improve morale, as employees feel that their work is constantly being improved.


Continuous Improvement Strategy


As a business, it is a must to adapt to a continuous improvement culture, it's important to always be looking for ways to improve. After all, the competition is constantly looking for ways to get ahead, and if you're not also constantly improving, you'll quickly fall behind. Continuous improvement is a strategy that businesses use to identify areas where they can make small-scale, incremental steps to improve in order to stay ahead of the competition and keep their business running smoothly.



There are a number of different ways to go about implementing a continuous improvement strategy.


One popular method is known as the " Plan Do Check Act" cycle, which helps businesses to identify areas where they can make improve workflow management, implement changes, and then measure the results to see if the changes were effective.


Another common method is known as the "Deming Cycle," named after quality expert W. Edwards Deming. This approach also focuses on identifying improvement opportunities and then making changes, but it emphasizes the importance of constantly monitoring results and making adjustments as needed to ensure that improvements are actually being made.


No matter which method you choose, the goal of continuous improvement is always the same: to identify ways to make small, incremental improvements that will improve your business overall. By constantly striving to be better, you can ensure that your business remains competitive and successful for years to come.


There are a number of tools and techniques that can be used to help with continuous improvement part. Some common tools include process mapping, Root Cause Analysis, and fishbone diagrams. There are also a number of software programs available that can help with data collection and analysis, making it easier to identify areas where improvements need to be made.


The key to successful continuous improvement is to make sure that everyone in your organization is on board with the process. Everyone needs to be aware of the tools and techniques that are available and be willing to use them to identify areas for improvement. It's also important to have a system in place for tracking progress and measuring results so that you can see if the changes you're making are actually having the desired effect.


If you're not sure where to start, there are a number of consultants and service providers who specialize in helping businesses implement continuous improvement strategies. They can help you assess your current situation, identify wasted time in your process, i.e getting the cycle time of each process and develop the right tool for making changes. Implementing a continuous improvement strategy can be a big undertaking in your team's capacity, but it's worth it if it means that your business is able to stay ahead of the competition and remain successful for years to come.


“As creators, our pursuit of perfection might be misguided, particularly if it comes at the expense of the things that matter. – Seth Godin”


The pursuit of perfection is a never-ending journey. There's always room for improvement, no matter how good you are. That's the beauty of continuous improvement.


It's a strategy that helps businesses to identify areas where they can make small incremental improvements in order to stay ahead of the competition and keep their business running smoothly.


I hope that this article motivates you to take the first step in your continuous improvement journey. If you enjoyed this article please check out my other content at: https://www.5280lsc.com/blog


Additionally, if you have questions or comments please feel free to setup time with me.




10 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All