Coming from a W. Edwards Deming background, I have been sensitized to the word “continual” when it comes to improvement. It served as a code word for those that where true followers of Dr. Deming vs. “the pretenders.” I always knew who really understood the philosophy and those that just sounded good.
Even today, I still find myself talking to groups about the difference between continual and continuous improvement. I like to describe “continuous improvement” as always making improvements and moving forward – I have never seen this happen over the long haul. “Continual” improvement” implies that sometimes you have to stop or even take a step or steps backward to achieve improvement – improvement is discontinuous in nature.
Management doesn’t understand continual improvement as their impatience only allows them to embrace continuous improvement. Always forward, the next quarter must be better than the last. Growth, no matter what the reality or the foolishness of the pursuit.
Studying systems requires a stoppage to understand the underlying thinking that dictates the current performance. With solid understanding, experimentation with method may lead to improvement or knowledge of what doesn’t work. For a scientist, this is a victory as they come one-step closer to discovery.
The road to continual improvement is a rocky one with many ups and downs. Understanding this allows one the opportunity to begin the journey.
Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public). His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work. Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Learn more about the 95 Method for service organizations. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.
You’re talking in mutually exclusive terms.
In what sense can taking a step back *be* improvement?
What I *think* you mean is that sometimes you need to undo a previous improvement to take a larger step forward from a different place. It’s still exactly the same thing – you’re making net improvements on a previous state, even if it’s not the immediately previous one.
But positing that as not being visible or intellectually available to management is just plain immature arrogance, and presenting continuous-v-continual is a self-aggrandising false dichotomy designed to present you as being on the side of motherhood and apple pie rather than with those nasty ‘managers’.
May I suggest some Gemba thinking? Go to where management is happening. Ask Why. Show Respect.
Muy interesante y excelente articulo, el detalle esta que cuando quise compartir con mis 5368 seguidores para que pudieran leerlo, no estaba (o no encontré) el dichoso botón de redes sociales tal como twitter y/o facebook (para compartir y no para seguirte ya que ese botón si esta). Tendrías la amabilidad de ponerlo, muchas gracias y saludos cordiales
You can retweet on twitter to your followers. I may tie to facebook at some point to make things easier.
You give Angry Birds new meaning.
There is a phrase i have heard used for management that to me fits. “Management is guilty, but not to blame.”
However, management owns the design of the system that workers work in. Without changing the industrialized mindset . . . we stagnate.
As for the operational definition of improvement. Yours is traditional, which makes continuous attractive to you. I am proposing changing the definition to broadly encompass that improvement comes from experimentation. Perceived or reality that is taking a couple steps back in some view and sitting in status quo in others.
Words simply will not come easily with which to express great appreciation for your “Continual vs. Continuous Improvement” piece!
Early this month I addressed my local board of education; they keep yapping the business indoctrination of “continuous improvement” without knowledge of what they do. I challenged them to come to understand that it was their and the superintendent’s dogged pursuit of “continuous improvement” with ever higher targets that lead the school district into the greatest test cheating scandal in U.S. history. The school district in question is, of course, Atlanta Public Schools, Atlanta, GA. The district’s test cheating scandal made local, national, and international news.
You can expect me to copy the heck out of your article and distribute it broadly. Feel free to sue me for doing so.
By the way, I am a former president of the Atlanta Area Deming Study Group.
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
To think that an organisation can achieve continuous improvement (every day more profit than the previous day) is unrealistic. But an organisation can adopt approaches to its activity that foster continual improvement. This means, I think that there will always be effort to find a better way, sometimes the effort will be misplaced, and the way won’t be better, so the organisation will reassess and do something else.
Allied to the fantasy quest for continuous improvement is the notion of ‘benchmarking’ to find ‘best practice’ (in your context and domain of operations, but will it work in mine?), which strikes me as substitutes for gaining knowledge and experiements to find and do the better way. Nevertheless, I suppose benchmarks can help to compare the results that differing approaches can produce and identify where work is needed to improve.
For more on “continuous” and “continual,” as well as “assumedly” and “assumably,” see: http://daisybrain.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/insert-title-here/