Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Continuous Improvement: A Way of Life

Typically the phrase "continuous process improvement" swirls around in a pool with other jargon terms such as lean, kaizen, and operational excellence. These terms have had stigmas of being cost-cutting tools mostly applicable in a manufacturing type setting. 

Continuous process improvement can be applied in all industries as well as in your own personal life. It is a matter of determining what true value is and seeing the wastes intertwined in the current process and then actively making small improvements. The top lean leaders and change agents in business today consider continuous process improvement to be a way of life that all employees are involved in no matter the industry or area of profession.

When I was first introduced to this principle at the Shingo Prize, I was under the impression that lean and continuous improvement was a cost-cutting tool used in manufacturing. Upon walking through the Shingo doors my mind was opened to a whole new world of possibilities. Often times in life we get used to the regular mundane way of doing things. Some of us have come to a point where we accept things the way they are because that’s the way they have always been. Some people have wild hair that drives them to think about something and then change it for the better, in turn, making life a little easier for many others. The concept of continuous improvement suggests making continual and incremental positive changes to make something better. It applies to life in that it encompasses anything and everything from work, and school, to your personal life. It could be a process on the production floor that you could make easier, faster, or safer. It could be the way you do paperwork in your office — you realize a small change that will save you time and cut out needless busy work. At home it could be as simple as where you store the toilet paper for quick and purposeful action! 

The truth is, that as we start to focus on this concept and apply it, it becomes easier to catch a positive fever driving you to be better and accomplish things you never thought possible. This fever is often times contagious and begins to create an ever-valuable culture desperately needed to be successful in business today. There is no end to the journey and as we learn principles of continuous process improvement and operational excellence, we start to see the endless possibilities.

If you think about your life, job, or school, what things have you accepted as the norm because that’s the way it’s always been?

— Justin Corbridge
Lean Leaders Vice President

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