Concepts and methods for continuous improvement

Today it is more important than ever for organizations to be flexible and ready to adapt to the rapidly changing world. This, in turn, means that you, as the responsible manager or team leader, must also be ready to improve and adapt processes and working methods so that the business can function as well as possible. But what does this mean in practice? We describe some basic concepts and methods that you can use to get your organization on track and promote continuous improvement. 

What does systematic improvement mean? 

There are always things in an organization that can be improved. This could be anything from the processes and procedures of the business to the fact that the corporate culture is not in line with expectations. Basically, improvement work is about getting progress and continuous development of the business and getting all employees to want to do things better. In improvement work, the whole, or parts of the organization work purpose-driven towards objectives that benefit the business. It is often a comprehensive effort that should be applied in smaller steps and phases, rather than being a quick fix. This increases the chance that the results of the improvement initiative will take root and improve quality in the long term. 
Improvement work is a broad term that encompasses a variety of methods and concepts to drive successful initiatives. Unfortunately, it is impossible to point out which of these concepts best suits your organization - it all depends on internal conditions, needs, requirements and resources. It has also been shown that the most successful improvement initiatives, in many cases, are the result of combined methods or concepts. Many of these have relatively similar basic ideas, which are based on analyses of the current state of the business. This makes it easier to set clear frameworks and objectives for an initiative, where it should be possible to identify deviations and deficient processes at an early stage in order to make the business as efficient as possible. 
At CANEA, we work and train in well-known concepts that inspire improvement work, plus we provide relevant training. Mainly agile, six sigma and lean concepts and philosophies that contain principles, methods and tools that are adapted to the specific business. 

Agile improvement work strengthens organizations 

If an organization is structured in a way that encourages development and improvement, it will have a bright future. However, a common problem is that businesses are stuck in old routines that no longer match the current situation, which has a negative impact on productivity, efficiency and development. If this applies to your business, agile improvement may be one of the solutions you can invest in to break out of old patterns and develop your organization from the ground up. 
In agile improvement, individuals and interactions are prioritized over processes and tools. This usually results in a better and broader understanding of the actual needs of the organization and the potential for improvement. In this type of change management, your team leaders and managers have significant roles as role models. A change that is only delegated from the top can easily be ignored or seem abstract. Agile methods are characterized by transparency, collaboration and understanding, which promotes the right priorities and actions for the development of the whole business. It is an effective method if, for example, your organization has stagnated and is at risk of losing the motivation and commitment of its employees. 

Boosting competitiveness, efficiency and quality with lean and six sigma 

Lean and six sigma are two methods that can be combined to provide organizations with numerous benefits. The two improvement concepts complement each other by engaging employees and creating value for the customer, while giving the organization a better structure and tools for problem solving. The combination thus strengthens competitiveness and makes the business more resource efficient, increases the quality of work and optimizes workflows. 

CANEA ONE is a comprehensive IT solution that helps organizations realize their strategies, strengthen competitiveness and improve profitability. 

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What is lean? 

Implementing changes using the lean concept aims to make operations more efficient, while engaging employees in creating value for customers. The concept is based on the organization's individual needs and conditions and includes everything from values and philosophy to methods and tools. The basis of lean is that improvement should generate value for the entire organization by streamlining processes and flows. For example, if you want to shorten lead times and reduce stock holding and complaints, areas that have an impact on financial performance and competitiveness, this is the method for you. But lean takes time, so what does it take to succeed with this concept? 

  • Clearly communicated strategy to achieve the objectives - there needs to be a common thread between changes, long-term objectives and choices. 
  • Management, supervisors and team leaders have a clear understanding of what lean means and how to implement it in their organization. The ability to lead by example is crucial to the impact of lean on organizational culture. 
  • The improvement process should be tailored to your business. The choice of tools and approaches is based on your objectives and desired results. 
  • Perseverance - it is a long-term effort that takes time to implement from scratch.

What is six sigma? 

Six sigma is a data-driven improvement methodology. It provides a toolbox with lots of actions that promote successful and systematic improvement. Six sigma makes it easier to identify and solve relevant problems, while giving the organization a more sustainable structure. It is common for the method to contribute to more stable processes and actions that produce real results. Working with six sigma requires a certain knowledge of the tools and models used, both by management and individual employees. As with lean, it is also important to have a clear and phased process with balanced planning and communication. 
Six sigma is about understanding problems and obstacles in the business and combating them with the right tools to achieve success and increased quality. It is common to use the DMAIC methodology, which includes a variety of tools and questions at each stage, to provide a clear link to the business: 

  • Define: define the task and map the situation. 
  • Measure: the task should be measured to enable root cause analysis so that decisions can be based on facts. 
  • Analyze: statistical analysis of collected measurement data. The analysis turns gut feelings, preconceptions and guesses into fact-based root causes. 
  • Improve: generate, evaluate, select, test and implement solutions to root causes. 
  • Control: monitor the improvement to validate the effect. It often takes 6-12 months to demonstrate sustained benefit over time. 

Successful improvement work requires both training and digital support. CANEA has 30 years of experience in improvement work and we offer several comprehensive trainings for over 4000 people every year - see our trainings here! We also offer CANEA ONE - the complete business system that helps you realize strategies, strengthen competitiveness and improve profitability. 
Read more about CANEA ONE here!