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The Six Disciplines Blog


Thursday, April 26, 2018

On Becoming A Purpose-Driven Organization: Continuous Improvement – Part 5 of 6

In Part 5 of this 6 part series, we dive into the specific process your organization can use to become purpose-driven, with this week’s focus on continuous improvement.

Establishing this discipline encourages everyone in the organization to be constantly looking for opportunities for improvement. Every day, people on the front lines see consequences of policy and procedure issues that create quality and customer services issues. When opportunities are identified, they are prioritized, and a thorough analysis of the root cause of each issue is conducted before acted upon. Measurement of “what was” vs. “what is” are used to verify that the issue has been solved and stays “solved”.

Creating a Mindset for Continuous Process Improvement

We define discipline as “the wisdom and will to do today that which will produce worthwhile fruit tomorrow”. Using this definition continuous improvement is a discipline. It needs to be a pervasive mindset throughout your organization that there is unending opportunity to make improvements that will improve organization success, as well as improve the quality of life for every individual involved.

The 5-step continuous improvement process is based on the Six Sigma model. DMAIC (pronounced də-MAY-ick) is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, and refers to a data-driven improvement cycle used for improving, optimizing and stabilizing business processes and designs.The steps are understandable and provide clear guidance for teams to work together successfully. The steps include defining the problem, measuring current performance to establish a benchmark for improvement gains, analyzing root causes, improving the process, and controlling the results so that the gains are sustainable.

While strategic change is driven from the top down and requires a large commitment of resources applied in a coordinated sequence across the whole enterprise, continuous improvement is the opposite. It’s driven from the bottom-up in small steps. It is a culture where everyone – all the time – is looking for what can be incrementally improved. However, there must be an effective process that assures these ideas are prioritized and acted upon in a timely fashion. Because the items are relatively small they can be locally decided, funded and implemented. This kind of front line empowerment is critical to build and sustain an action-oriented culture.

The immediate benefits of continuous improvement are many, including cost savings, time savings, better working conditions, higher quality, etc. However, for organizations that have a clear strategic change plan, continuous improvement reduces the amount of resource required to “run” the business, and thereby increases the amount of resource to make strategic change. Strategic change accelerates value-add to customers and competitive differentiation, which means improved sustainability of growth and profitability.

Click here to read part 6!


Since 2005, the Six Disciplines blog offers posts about performance excellence, strategy execution, business coaching, leadership development, innovation, and business process improvement. This blog has received prestigious awards for leadership and management and has been syndicated by several major media sources.