Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once.
Among the most widely used tools for continuous improvement is a four-step quality model—the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, also known as Deming Cycle or Shewhart Cycle:
Other widely used methods of continuous improvement such as Six Sigma, Lean, and Total Quality Management emphasize employee involvement and teamwork; measuring and systematizing processes; and reducing variation, defects and cycle times.
Continuous or Continual?
The terms continuous improvement and continual improvement are frequently used interchangeably. But some quality practitioners make the following distinction: