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Improvements are simply changes for the better. Lean and other continuous improvement philosophies all focus on using some sort of problem solving method to drive improvement. Improvements can range from new, better computer systems, to kaizen events, on down to moving a garbage can closer to the point of use.

Unfortunately, seemingly simple things in continuous improvement often aren’t quite so cut and dried.

Judging something as an improvement is far more complicated than it seems on the surface.

  1. Improvements have perspective. An employee may see things differently than a senior executive or a customer. Make sure you know who gets to judge the improvement.
  2. Changes tweak many metrics. A new process may improve one metric while reducing another. For example, is a 7% increase in cost that reduces defects by 6% an improvement? What if it also impacts lead time? Change must have a definition of success assigned to it.
  3. Improvements must last. Many improvements are temporary. Make sure there is no backsliding, or the improvement doesn’t count.
  4. You must know the starting point. If you don’t know where you started, you can’t tell if things really got better.


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