A continuous improvement process refers to your organisation's constant efforts to be ever-improving, through the reduction of waste. This could refer to improving your people, processes, products, or services.
Continuous improvement can be broken into two categories of ‘incremental’ improvement or ‘breakthrough’ improvements, which will both affect your organisation in differing ways.
These will slowly enhance your organisation through small, more subtle changes that can take longer to be fully implemented into your organisation. This type of continuous improvement means that small steps can be made that make an impact to your organisation, without disrupting the entire organisation.
Incremental improvement allows for ideas to be put forward by employees at all levels, and for these to actually be considered. This type of continuous improvement can be used when the change is not urgent, and will help in decreasing any anxieties the employees have about the change, as it will be smaller in nature.
These will be more radical, large improvements that may shake up your organisation when they are implemented. These are often necessary if your organisation is going through a crisis or catastrophe and has to respond with some urgency.
This type of improvement will likely be driven by your top level of management.
The costs of breakthrough improvement are going to initially be a lot higher than other options, as the whole change is going ahead at once, rather than in sections.
It is important for any organisation to weigh up the options of what type of improvement they want to introduce.
If the need for change is not so urgent, and may create some disturbances for the employees, it may be more suitable to use an incremental approach. On the other hand, if the change being implemented is due to a crisis, particularly one involving customers or the wider society at large, a breakthrough improvement is likely going to be necessary.