In No Uncertain Terms

Description: When thinking about the terms “continual” and “continuous,” an argument can easily be made that a relative difference exists. The main difference between the terms is time.…


Keywords: Continuous improvement,Continual improvement,International Organization for Standardization (ISO),ISO 9000,Terminology

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When the author states "The main difference between the terms is time—in the definitions of “continual,” there are breaks in time." They did not actually read the definitions in table 1... From Dictionary.com item 2... "Happening without interruption or cessation; continuous in time"
My opinion is that we are getting away from the purpose/intent of the standard when we start picking apart words like this... The purpose of this statement is to work at making the system better... not just once...
--Dave Wylie, 05-16-2019


W. Edwards Deming is recognized as developing the new philosophy for quality management. The distinction between continual and continuous identified in the opening paragraph aligns with his philosophy. Deming concluded that if he was to reduce his message to just a few words, it all has to do with reducing variation. A more common understanding of variation would provide a needed context for understanding the important distinction between continual and continuous. See ASQs Glossary of terms What is Variation? - The Law of Variation.
--Timothy Clark, 05-12-2019


This was an interesting article exploring the differences between continual and continuous. One section of the article explains how the regulatory community concluded to use continual rather than continuous due to an organization's ability to meet this enforcement: "They felt that continuous was unenforceable because it meant an organization had to improve minute by minute, whereas, continual improvement meant step-wise improvement or improvement in segments." I appreciate and support the regulatory community's debate to consider how an organization would meet the goal of improvement. I support the use of SMART (Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals. From a SMART perspective, the use of the word continual is more appropriate; however, if there is a desire to shift to the word continuous instead, then the expectations of how an organization would be expected to meet this definition and demonstrate this would need to be clarified and well-defined. Thanks for provoking us to think about the context and use of these two phrases.
--Sabrina Abla, 05-08-2019


Hopefully, they provide a clarification if reverting to "continuous". Shortly before the change to "continual", our organization received an audit finding for implementing a change, determined to provide an improvement which it did, however, it also had an unintended consequence. The auditor, in reviewing the action plan put in place, found the unintended consequence to be a non-conformance because our performance actually was negatively impacted by the change, in another area altogether. His definition of continuous was "always improving", not going down at any time in the cycle of activities. Of course, the corrective action was to revert to the previous methodology, but the NCN stood. It is difficult to instill the philosophy of entrepreneurship, when "experimenting" can net one a punishment.
--Kirk Stevens, 05-08-2019


The article is well written, but the author supports the wrong conclusion. If continuous means without cessation, then it is not possible to execute one's job. One would not be working on contract review, design, product/service realization, or the multiple other processes that must be executed within business. Continual improvement is the proper term. It's the only feasible activity for businesses to embrace and for which auditors may find objective evidence.
--Cynthia Aylen, 05-08-2019


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