The Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. It’s a six-step systematic approach to plan, sequence and implement improvement efforts using data and elaborates on the Shewhart Cycle (Plan, Do, Study Act). The CIP provides a common language and methodology which enables understanding the improvement process. The CIP always links back to each organization’s own goals and priorities.
Definition: Continuous improvement is the act of continually looking to improve upon a process, product, or service through small incremental steps.
Why Use a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
Implementing a Continuous Improvement Process in an organization should be standard practice now. Studies have shown the main benefits of a CIP are:
- Increase productivity
- Better teamwork and morale
- Greater agility
- Less waste
- More efficiency
- Increase customer satisfaction
- Increase in profit
Phases of the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
There are four phases associated with the CIP. These phases are associated with the Shewhart Cycle:
- Phase 1 “Plan”: Plan for change and identify improvement opportunities.
- Phase 2 “Do”: Implement changes identified.
- Phase 3 “Study”: Check to determine if the change had the desired outcome.
- Phase 4 “Act”: If successful, implement across the organization and process.
The Six (6) Steps of the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
- Step 1: Identify Improvement Opportunity: Select the appropriate process for improvement.
- Evaluate Process:
- Select a challenge/problem
- Step 2: Analyze: Identify and verify the root cause(s).
- Step 3: Take Action: Plan and implement actions that correct the root cause(s).
- Step 4: Study Results: Confirm the actions taken to achieve the target.
- Step 5: Standardize Solution: Ensure the improved level of performance is maintained.
- Step 6: Plan for the Future:
- Plan what is to be done with any remaining problems
- Evaluate the team’s effectiveness Set a target for improvement
The Best Time to Start a Continuous Improvement Process (CIP)
There is no bad time to start using a continuous improvement process but the sooner the better. Below is a list of the times I believe a CIP should be implemented:
- Beginning of a new project
- Development of processes and procedures
- Developing a new or improved product, or service
- Planning data collection and analysis
- Implementing any change to a process
- Whenever a failure occurs
Tools that can be used to help with the Continual Improvement Process (CIP) are:
- Force Field Analysis
- Affinity Diagram
- Delphi Technique
- Pareto Chart
- Cause and Effect Diagram
- Scatter Diagram
- Check Sheet
- Control Chart
- Process Capability Index and Ratio
- ISO 14000
AcqLinks and References:
-  Defense AT&L: Continuous Process Improvement within the DoD by David Pearson July 2007
- DoD Directive 5010.42 “DoD-Wide Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) Lean Six Sigma (LSS)” – 15 May 2008
- Air Force Instruction 38-401 “Continuous Improvement Process” – Aug 2019
- Manual: DCMA Manual 4502-05 Continuous Process Improvement – Dec 2020
- Website: DoD Chief Management Office: Continuous Improvement Process