Skip main navigation

What is continuous improvement?

What does continuous improvement mean and why is it important for product managers? This article explores these in detail.

What does continuous improvement mean?

Continuous improvement is a never-ending drive for product perfection and has become a vital strategy in growth and improving organisational and product performance. It is used by organisations to proactively achieve consistent and incremental improvements on their production, methods, services, and processes. [2]

Continuous delivery

It’s important to make a distinction between continuous improvement and continuous delivery. Continuous improvement is not the same as continuous delivery – an Agile practice that involves updating products in short cycles by breaking up work into small tasks. Continuous improvement is a much larger concept in which processes are improved, quality is increased, and wastage of time and effort is reduced through specific processes and practices. [2]

‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’ [1]

These words by author Neale Donald Walsch indicate the essence of accepting change. So, while change can be daunting and most people resist it, once embraced it can yield beneficial outcomes.

Adapting to improvement and change is vital for developing successful products today, as:

  • there is increasing market competition
  • it is a global market space
  • information is accessible everywhere
  • product requirements are dynamic. [1]

The principles of the continuous improvement model

There are numerous methods involved in creating opportunities for business and product improvements. Some of these methods include the likes of Lean, Kaizen, and Sigma, which all have focal points of the continuous improvement model.

Continuous improvement within an organisation

Continuous improvement within an organisation should focus on incremental improvements to products and processes. To ensure that this process is followed, you can adopt the following principles:

  1. Improvements should be incremental and focus on small changes.
  2. Employee ideas should be considered valuable.
  3. Incremental improvements should be inexpensive and easy to implement.
  4. Employees should take ownership of the improvement process.
  5. Improvement should be reflective.
  6. Improvements should be measurable and repeatable. [3]

Why is continuous improvement important for product managers?

Product managers can leverage continuous improvement to improve their team’s processes and optimise the way they design, build and develop products. [4] Product managers need to prioritise continuous improvement because, through continuous improvement practices, small but impactful changes have the potential to help them stay ahead of the competition and improve revenue. [2]

Continuous improvement can also help to attract new customers and improve the experience of existing ones. [5] For product managers, this means adopting a company-wide culture of continuous improvement that aims to optimise business operations and product builds.

The benefits of continuous improvement

Implementing continuous improvement can provide the following:

  • improved productivity
  • simplified processes
  • increased product quality
  • improved collaboration and communication. [6]

References

  1. Naydenov P. Benefits of continuous improvement as a business strategy [Blog]. Kanbanize; 2019 Nov 21. Available from: https://kanbanize.com/blog/how-continuous-improvement-can-benefit-your-business/
  2. Terry J. What is Continuous Improvement? Planview LeanKit [Internet]. Planview; 2021. Available from: https://www.planview.com/resources/guide/lean-principles-101/what-is-continuous-improvement/
  3. Millard M. 6 principles of the continuous improvement model [Blog]. KaiNexus; 2021 Mar 11. Available from: https://blog.kainexus.com/continuous-improvement/6-principles-of-the-continuous-improvement-model
  4. Traynor D. How to Make Product Improvements: Strategies & Examples [Blog]. Inside Intercom; 2018. Available from: https://www.intercom.com/blog/ways-to-improve-a-product/
  5. ProductPlan. Continuous Improvement. Definition and Overview [Internet]. ProductPLan; 2021. Available from: https://www.productplan.com/glossary/continuous-improvement/
  6. Graphic Products. Continuous Improvement; 2021. Available from: https://www.graphicproducts.com/articles/continuous-improvement/
This article is from the free online

Product Management Essentials

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education