A continuous improvement cycle is a business strategy that is used to identify processes which constantly aid a company in becoming more efficient and profitable. In order for this type of strategy to work, there is a need to structure an organized and timely process for evaluating each phase of the business operation and the impact that current policies and procedures have on the outcome of that production process. There are several different models for a continuous improvement cycle, with some including more steps than others.
One of the most simplistic examples of a continuous improvement cycle is known as the plan-do-check-act cycle. Here, the focus is on designing procedures that are expected to produce the desired results. The next phase involves the actual implementation of those procedures. From there, the effectiveness of those procedures in a real life setting are evaluated. In the event the procedures need to be refined or changed in some manner in order to enhance the chances of reaching the desired goals, that action is completed. At that point, the cycle begins anew.
While the operation of a continuous improvement cycle is often seen as a function of the management team, many companies find that involving employees who actually carry out the procedures in the planning and evaluation stages can help enhance productivity and efficiency by a considerable amount. Here, the idea is to establish a working committee or group that has the specific task of evaluating each process that goes into the overall company operation, identifying areas in which procedures that once worked very well have become outmoded or ineffective, and creating new procedures that restore efficiency without negatively impacting some other stage of the production process.
The exact methods used in managing a continuous improvement cycle will vary, based on the type of business involved and the size of the business operation. Even small businesses with no more than a couple of employees can employ the general principals behind the continuous improvement cycle and make changes that allow tasks to be performed faster without sacrificing quality. When this happens consistently, the business is able to operate at optimum efficiency and generate profits that are higher and ultimately benefit everyone connected with the operation. In contrast, a company that operates without some sort of organized method to engage in process improvement is less likely to have a manufacturing process that is as efficient as it could be, resulting in the generation of lower profits than would be possible otherwise.