What Is Continuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, skills or processes by making small changes and improvements, with the expectation that those small improvements will add up to something significant.
Why Continuous Improvement Works
The idea behind continuous improvement can be applied not only in products and services, but also in business processes and self-development.
A number of scientific studies show that we learn and improve better when we are slightly stressed, but not overwhelmed - and that applies to both physical and cognitive tasks. How difficult is it to perform a task 1% better? The difference can be barely noticeable at first, but results soon appear.
What You Need To Continuously Improve
In order to compound your initiatives into significant results in the long-term, there are two main things you need:
1) Practical execution
It is essential to execute the small initiative consistently. Here are some ways to do it:
Work on your mindset and increase accountability, by recognizing that if you don’t take action toward your goals, you will always be at mercy of your circumstances or luck;
Remember why that matters to you, and ask yourself how someone who already achieved your goals would think and behave;
Break through your Resistance, by understanding that overcoming self-doubt, fear and procrastination is a universal and never-ending battle and requires intentional action;
Eliminate distractions and multitasking, directing your limited attention to the activities that matter.
2) Measure initiatives and results
Set goals effectively, and understand the difference between goals and systems;
Understand the idea behind prioritization, and identify and work on your important and most promising tasks instead of getting stuck with urgent and low-impact activities;
Learn about our biases and weaknesses when making choices: Create standard procedures to avoid human mistakes and study and use different mental models for critical decisions.
How To Continually Improve
Once we recognize that small changes can be just as important as the big ones in the long-run, the million-dollar question becomes: "Well, what should I focus on then?"
From a pragmatic perspective, there are only a handful of options:
Do more of what is working. Sometimes we don't take time to plan and reflect, other times we know what to do, but we can't seem to make ourselves do it. One thing is sure: when we allow ourselves to simply execute the basics consistently, we gain more experience and information on how to move forward.
2. Eliminate what is not working. In many cases, improvement is not about doing more things right, but about doing fewer things wrong: following the via negativa. Subtraction is often more practical than addition.
3. Search for new alternatives for action.
Best Continuous Improvement Books
All Continuous Improvement Articles
This is a complete list of articles I have written on continuous improvement. Enjoy!