Methods listed in this article, will help you to reach excellence in any industry, or process. Continuous improvement is approach to be a little better every day. It is ceaseless, and endless work on habits, processes, knowledge, or any human activity. We do incremental steps to reach desired excellence state.

This article covers:

  • Why to use continuous improvement process?
  • Continuous improvement tools
  • Short term improvement method
Step by step – incremental improvement to reach excellence

Hot news, folks. In order to help you as much as I can in your improvement efforts, I have launched non-binding consultation program. I would like to help you with:

  • Lean culture implementation in your organization
  • Six Sigma projects consultations
  • Lean Six Sigma trainings and certifications support
  • Project management theory turn into practical usage
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First 30 minutes of consultation for free, every additional 1 hour 10 USD.

Why to use continuous improvement process?

You may ask, Why we should be trying every day to reach excellence? Answer is: To make life or work environment easier, safer, faster. And in the end, to earn more money, with less effort.

Starting any new activity, launching a new business, building new process, is huge and hard effort.

We can fail to start, by seeking perfection at the very beginning. At least start can be postponed to far behind we would wish.

It is recommended by many entrepreneurs to just start, and resolve issues as appears.

Continuous improvement follows this philosophy. But must is to make decisions by:

  • Problem real root cause understanding
  • Incremental goal reaching
  • Acting to reach that goal.

Why Lean and Six Sigma are used together? – read here

Download DMAIC tools list, I suggest allways to follow.

Download working DMAIC tool list for your usage

Continuous improvement tools

This is a list of methods to reach excellence:

  • Kaizen
  • PDCA
  • 5 whys
  • Continous improvement board

Let me introduce them one by one.

What is Kaizen

Kaizen is a concept where every organization element, from top management to workers, is trained and encouraged to continuously improve processes they are working in. Improvements are made by wastes and redundancies identification and their elimination. Kaizen translated as “change for better” became a philosophy and lifestyle for many companies but also for persons. Important for working concept is strong support from top management and spread through organization.

Wastes and redundancies identification and their elimination.

How to perform Kaizen event? +(template) – read here

Kaizen event main steps

  • Identify opportunities, pains to be solved,
  • Assemble Kaizen team
  • Understand current process
  • Understand reason why problem occurs,
  • Set target change,
  • Work on improvements to reach targeted change,
  • Sustain changes.
  • Celebrate.
It looks complicated, but do not be scared. Use common sence.

And link to download Kaizen event main steps. Use it, share it.


What is PDCA?

PDCA is an acronym for Plan, Do, Check, Act.

It is a method for quick problems identification, solver definition, list of solutions creation, optimal solution choosing, and implementing.

PDCA process never stops. It works in the circle over and over again.

By finalizing last step, a new problem is identified, and circle continues with next effort.

PDCA circle
DMAIC in the office – how to use it?

Top 11 Green belt and Black belt certification companies review- read here

I strongly recommend to have Learning to See book and Mixed model Valuestream for all managers, for all supervisors, engineers and leaders. You will be able to understand how valuestream should work, how to make value flow, and implement lean in any business, any process. It is really worth it.

Learning to See – Creating Mixed Model – Guru Books

If you would like to buy “Learning to see” book by Mike Rother click on this affiliate marketing link:

f you would like to buy “Creating Mixed Model VS” book by Kevin J Duggan click on this affiliate marketing link:

I may receive a commission if you sign up through this link. This is not affecting final product pric

5 whys method

5 why is one of the tools to understand root cause, of identified problem. You simply ask “why“ as children do, so many times. Try to answer it, until you get to the problem root-cause.

Whys method example. 15% of wooden products needed to be reworked. 5 why method will look like this:

Question 1: why 15% products needed to be reworked? Answer: there is surface tear out after cutting

Question 2: Why is surface tear out? Answer could be: saw is tearing out chips during cutting.

Question 3: Why is saw tearing out chips? Answer: lath is vibrating during cutting.

Question 4: why is lath vibrating? Answer might be: hand holding is not sufficient.

Last answer is navigates to possible solution.

Well, it is called 5 whys method. But if you get the right answer in question no. 4, like in this example, it is OK.

It can happen, that you can stop by answering question 4, or in question number 7. It is OK!

5 whys method explanation with example

The best Project manager / Black belt? (+template) – this is how

Download fishbone template

Here is how fishbone template for download looks like:

Fishbone template

There is task list template I use in my projects all the time included. It looks like this:

Addressing cause template is included

There is 5 whys analysis template included, On top of that:

5 whys template is included

You can download fishbone analysis, Task list and 5 whys template on the link below:

Continuous improvement board

Continuous improvement board, is a visual tool to enter improvement ideas. We are talking about process that follows Kanban method. But it is dedicated for improvement ideas generation and its implementation.

Key idea is, that board is reachable by anybody, it is located on visual easily accessible place.

There are 3 sections on the board. First one is dedicated for entering ideas. Second section is for cards with identified owners and due date. Last section is for finished and executed ideas.

Follow these important rules when using continual improvement board:

  • All ideas counts.
  • Cooperate with colleagues in developing ideas.
  • Ask for supervisor support

How to calculate Takt Time / Cycle Time? (+template) – read here

Shorter term improvement method

All mentioned methods are long term run. Is there method that will help reach desired state faster?

Faster method to reach excellence

Yes, there is. But it requires:

  • Very good methodology to be followed,
  • Experienced project leader,
  • Dedicated team effort, and
  • About 6 month of work.

I use method called Value Stream Transformation (VST) – for short term improvement

Once you reach excellence with faster method, that does not mean, you can not continuously improve process after.

There is a very good book written by Kevin Dougan, named: Mixed model in the production.

Creating mixed model by David Dougan

Another great book is: Learning to see, by Mike Rother.

Learning to see by Mike Rother

I strongly recommend to have Learning to See, and Mixed model Value stream books for all managers, for all supervisors, engineers and leaders working in processes and on processes. It is really worth it.

If you would like to buy “Learning to see” book by Mike Rother click on this affiliate marketing link:

If you would like to buy “Creating Mixed Model VS” book by Kevin J Duggan click on this affiliate marketing link:

I may receive a commission if you sign up through this link. This is not affecting final product prices.

Download Value stream transformation list

This list will help you with changes. Steps in this list are following 5 lean principles.

Yes, it is little challenging, but, it is doable.

This is my Value Stream Improvement check list

There are 4 phases. Stabilize, Flow, Pull, and Level. Each phase have several steps and tools used. Understanding of current and future state is developed In the stabilize phase. Flow phase is mainly about machine and manpower capacities and balancing them. Pull phase is about scheduling products through value stream. Level phase helps with improvements standardization.

VST tool list – download for free

I do videos, blog posts, and all templates for free, in my free time. I will appreciate if you can donate me a cup of cofee, for more energy in my creation. (1 dollar counts, too 😉 Click on this link: I would like to support Erik in his effort

Lean takeaways

  • Follow methodology – 5 steps
  • Teach people on 8 wastes
  • Start changing culture – on continuous neverending improvements
  • Involve as much as team members in changes
  • Encourage your team members by heart
  • Do not be afraid of failures

Do not forget to visit and subscribe to my YouTube channel. I upload short explanatory videos on Lean Six Sigma topics, and tools regurarly.

Do not hesitate to post your comments, questions, or themes you are interested in.

Yours sincerely Erik

The best continuous improvement methods?

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