Quality Continuous Improvement Procedures (With Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many businesses strive to make improvements to their products, services or operational processes to remain competitive. They also strive to increase profitability. Introducing formal continuous improvement plans can help leaders meet these challenges. In this article, we define quality continuous improvement procedures, look at some relevant examples and explain how you can create a positive workplace culture that focuses on continually improving.

What are quality continuous improvement procedures?

Quality continuous improvement procedures are the tools used by businesses to implement continuous improvement strategies. These strategies relate to the ongoing improvement of operational and business functions such as invoice and dispatch. Incorporating these strategies as a permanent feature helps to constantly challenge the company to meet new goals and objectives.

There are several ways for businesses to introduce quality continuous improvement. A company may make improvements through incremental changes a day, ones that look at minor improvements over a long period or breakthrough advances which aim for immediate impact. Here are some typical quality continuous improvement procedures:

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

This four-step quality assurance method is a common tool used for continuous improvement. It's a systematic process for the ongoing improvement of a product, process or service. The model stands for:

  • Plan: This step involves identifying an opportunity, goal or purpose and developing an implementation plan.

  • Do: This phase requires implementing the project on a small scale, for example, prototyping a product.

  • Check: In this step, you use data to assess the results and make adjustments or resolve any issues.

  • Act: Depending on the outcome of the check stage, this step involves implementing the plan on a bigger scale and continuously analysing results. If the program wasn't successful, begin the cycle again.

Lean continuous improvement

Lean continuous improvement processes examine various business procedures and focus on increasing customer value, reducing waste from products that fail quality standards and optimising the efficiency of operations and rapid responses. Being lean is also about building a continuous improvement culture where all colleagues can explore opportunities to improve their work and share their ideas. Lean thinking enhances customer value by reducing costs and errors in work processes, improving the quality of processes, simplifying complexity and reducing time. The added focus on empowering your colleagues aims to increase engagement and morale.

Value stream mapping

Value stream mapping helps teams identify and eliminate resource waste to speed up processes. This mapping method allows teams the opportunity to create a visual representation of a business or operational process. Teams gather information about the current state of their project, then map out requirements and identify responsibilities. The visual representation provides a clear outline of what needs to be done to reach specific goals.

5S strategy

The 5S strategy can help optimise productivity and reduce waste. It focuses on maintaining an orderly workplace by using visual cues to identify ways to increase operational results. The 5S strategy involves regularly undertaking five different steps:

  • Sort: identifying and removing any resources from the process that aren't required.

  • Set in order: organising the resources needed to be in the right places.

  • Shine: cleaning and organising your workspace regularly to keep a smooth workflow.

  • Standardise: developing specific processes for keeping your workspace organised.

  • Sustain: allowing team members to manage their methods independently.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a method that provides businesses with tools that can help improve the capability of their processes. Focusing on increasing performance while limiting the variety of techniques aims to reduce defects and increase profits and staff morale. Six Sigma uses statistics and data to help detect problems and improve processes, using specific steps in sequence, each with particular value targets.

Teams using this methodology have typically undertaken a Six Sigma certification course. As a result, they have the necessary skills to sponsor, manage and complete the project. Six Sigma can work in any industry and type of business. The certification aims to reduce waste, increase understanding of customer needs, reduce production time and produce cost savings.

Total Quality Management

Total quality management (TQM) is the process of continually detecting and eliminating errors. TQM aims to keep all stakeholders in the production process accountable for the final product or service quality. It also helps streamline supply chain management, improve customer service and ensures appropriate training of all team members.

Related: What Is Continuous Improvement? With Benefits and Models

How to create a quality continuous improvement culture

No matter which theory or procedure you use, driving improvements requires ongoing effort. The opportunity to improve satisfaction amongst clients, partners and your colleagues can help keep you focussed. Consider following these five steps to help you create a thriving quality continuous improvement culture in your workplace:

1. Select the correct method for your workplace

Selecting the suitable method for your workplace can be essential. Consider your business structure and the types of processes in place. Just as importantly, consider the skills of individuals in the team and any requirements for certification or data-driven credentials. Analysing both of these areas can help you determine which method is the right one for your organisation.

2. Monitor progress

By monitoring your progress regularly, you can confirm whether teams are meeting performance goals. Holding regular meetings can help team members feel comfortable with the agreed approach and ensure they have the necessary resources they need. In addition, by setting specific deadlines for each performance goal, team members can be clear on timelines and expectations.

3. Set realistic goals

Setting realistic and small goals can be essential to a team's success. By ensuring manageable goals, team members can remain motivated to achieve them. For example, a realistic goal for a marketing acquisition team could be to increase leads by 5% by the end of the quarter. To achieve the proposed percentage increase, the marketing team could collaborate with the sales team to determine the leads that drive the highest conversions and use data insights to target more of those types of customers.

Related: How to Utilise Goal-Setting Theory in the Workplace

4. Seek feedback

Regularly asking colleagues to share progress and problems can help you make adjustments and offer support when required. This approach can ensure that all team members are playing an active role. Team members can then feel confident sharing new ideas to help reach organisational goals.

5. Regular updates

Help encourage your team by providing regular updates on both projects and goals. Consider what timeframe works best for your business. For example, providing an update to the group each week so they can see the impact of their work on goals and outcomes. Regular updates can help motivate the team to stay focused on their tasks and address any issues immediately.

Related: Guide to Company Culture

The importance of ongoing assessment

Viewing continual improvement as an ongoing objective can be essential to the success and profitability of a business. This perspective can allow businesses to meet the ever-changing demands in a competitive environment. Here are some areas to consider when undertaking quality continuous improvement procedures.

  • Consider opportunities for incorporating both gradual improvement and breakthrough improvement across all levels of the organisation.

  • Continually evaluate and assess against recognised criteria to allow team members to identify any areas for future improvement. Also, ensure that continual improvement principles are consistent across the organisation.

  • Look for ways to improve the capacity and value of process improvements.

  • Identify and encourage prevention-based actions that curtail process issues before they become unmanageable.

  • Ensure team members have access to the training and resources they need. For example, providing the right training to ensure that all the team can confidently use the PDCA cycle.

  • Set measurable objectives to guide team members and track improvements by regularly reporting and monitoring outcomes.

  • Recognise and celebrate improvements so all staff can see the results from continual improvement procedures.

Examples of quality continuous improvement

Here are two specific examples of continuous improvement methods:

Example 1: Improve products

A retail company is about to launch a revolutionary new technology product. The team responsible for quality control tests the product before releasing it to ensure it functions as expected. First, the group uses various testing methods and uncovers an issue. Next, the team discusses what the cause could be and, as a result, introduces new testing methods. Finally, they repeat testing and explore new ideas for improvements until satisfied the product is ready for launch.

Example 2: Increase sales

A technology company sets a new goal to increase sales. The sales manager discusses the new plan, including the team's required timeline and identifies ways to meet the goal. In a follow-up meeting one month later, the manager discovers that they are at less than half of their expected sales targets.

The manager asks their team for feedback on the sales process. Many team members don't believe the sales techniques are helpful, so they develop a new method together. In the next meeting, one month later, the sales manager finds that the sales are now 50% more than predicted. In this example, the process was the only thing that changed. The product remained the same.

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