What is a continuous improvement mindset?
A continuous improvement mindset is a perspective that substantial improvements can be achieved through continually making incremental improvements to the products, service, and operations of a company. By identifying and implementing small changes throughout the organization, the company is able to achieve substantial cumulative improvements.
This in contrast to seeing one-off advancements, which often require substantial capital investments, which are riskier than smaller incremental changes. A continuous improvement mindset is more focused on the incremental improvements that can be made, rather than the ‘breakthrough’ improvements from major changes to operations.
Why not all firms and managers recognize the benefit of continuous improvement
While the cumulative effect of continuous improvements can be significant, it requires constant attention from employees throughout the firm. It is not made up of one change, but rather lots of small improvements.
The problem is that many of the individual improvements are small and easy to overlook. Each individual tweak does not in itself bring substantial benefit. These small improvements are easy to dismiss, with some managers favoring one-off advancements that promise larger immediate gains. Unless there is a culture that rewards and supports continuous improvement, it is, in turn, easy for employees to dismiss the benefit that comes from making improvements. It is easy to think that a major new production line is the magic solution to efficiency problems and dismiss the gradual improvements that come from making small refinements to operations.
Ways of encouraging a continuous improvement mindset
Support from the top of the firm
One of the most important components in encouraging a continuous improvement mindset is support from the top of the firm. If managers put their weight behind the importance of continuous improvement, it is much more likely that lower employees within the organization will take the need for continuous improvement seriously.
Another component of achieving a continuous improvement mindset is monitoring the performance. Actively keeping track of improvements and monitoring key areas can emphasize the importance of improvement, and encourage individuals throughout the firm to identify and implement improvements.
A final component of developing a continuous improvement mindset is rewarding and encouraging improvements. Making it a component of your reward or formal employee evaluations is for example one approach to encourage employees to take the need to suggest improvements seriously.