What is Continuous Process Improvement (CPI)?

Continuous process improvement is the act of carrying out changes to your processes in the search for a perfect product or service.

By definition, Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) is the act of implementing improvements to a product, service or process. These changes can either be incremental (over time) or breakthrough (all at once).

The key here is continuous – CPI isn’t a one-time initiative. You don’t just optimise a certain process once, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. Once you succeed with a process improvement initiative, you need to periodically look back and see whether there are any changes you could make. Think, adopting new hardware, software, methodology, etc.

There are many modern methodologies aiming for continuous process improvement. Some of the most popular today include Kaizen, Six Sigma, Business Process Management and Total Quality Management.

Among these Kaizen is considered the methodology which embraces continuous improvement most fully. The term literally means ‘change for better’ or ‘improvement’ in Japanese.

Key Features of Kaizen

  • Small, but frequent incremental improvements rather than radical change, reduces risk.
  • Furthermore, small improvements probably require less major capital investment than major process changes.
  • Also, encourage actual workers to put forward ideas, these are likely to be easier to implement and doesn’t require research or consultants – which could prove very expensive.
  • All employees should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance.
  • Finally, it helps encourage workers to take ownership of their work and can help reinforce team working, thereby improving worker motivation.

The elements above are the more tactical elements of CPI. Therefore, the more strategic elements include deciding how to increase the value of the delivery process output to the customer (effectiveness) and how much flexibility is valuable in the process to meet changing needs.

Further resources:

Read our process improvement plan