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Continuous Improvement Development Guide


Continuous Improvement Development Guide (TM)

Program Overview

What Our Practical Guide Is

The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Continuous Improvement is a step-by-step approach to continuous improvement. It walks you through the phases of a transformation from deciding to commit to Lean through world-class performance. The guide is broken down into the volumes listed below with each one corresponding to a phases of our Continuous Improvement Transformation Model.

Within these volumes you will find sections to support your evolution. These sections come in four basic flavors. Knowledge Building sections put you in receive mode and provide you with top quality information. Lesson Plans go further and require you to do something to apply the knowledge. Development Gates walk you through the process of putting a piece of infrastructure in place. Finally, Waypoints give you a brief pause to review what you should know, how the company should be performing, and what is coming up next.

Within each section you will find healthy doses of content both from our website and from our Lean Training System.


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Phase Information

Why do you need this guide?

The short answer is that Lean, and for that matter, most continuous improvement methodologies, are very polarizing. People either view them as the source of great competitive advantage or as a means to squeeze every last drop of profit out of the team.

The truth is this split is understandable. Many companies see the challenges that come with cultural change, and never leave the starting gate. Others launch improvement initiatives only to see them fail. In the best of these situations, the attempt consumes resources and distracts the company from achieving other goals. In the worst of these cases, the failure mode leaves the company in worse shape than it started. The low success rate and the ease of finding someone who felt harmed by improvement efforts can make Lean a hard sell.

But the potential of Lean is also clear. The companies that successfully change the way they do business see remarkable improvement. In many cases, their transformation rescues them from the brink of financial disaster. In other cases it makes them a market leader.

So what is the difference between failure and success? Well, the reasons are numerous.

  • Despite the vast quantities of information available about continuous improvement, it is disjointed and often contradictory. It takes tremendous effort to sift through it to figure out what to do.
  • Getting help can be extremely expensive. This can price small and midsize businesses out of making an attempt to become Lean.
  • Lean is promoted in an overly optimistic fashion, especially by some consulting groups. That’s because they have to justify their cost to land business. The high expectations are difficult to live up to.
  • Lean is treated as a set of tools. They are not applied in a cohesive manner.
  • Management teams focus on employees, but they don’t change the way they lead the company. This makes it hard to engage teams when they feel like they are doing all the heavy lifting.
  • Lean is applied without respect for people. Again, this alienates them and increases the chance of failure. 
  • And finally, people just don’t know how to go about changing the company. They get overloaded by all the things that have to get done, and end up bogged down.

Our practical guide is intended to address those issues. Read on to see how we go about doing that.

Volume Directory

This guide is organized into volumes that correspond to the 6 phases of our Continuous Improvement Transformation Model.

Practical Guide Mission Statement

This guide is intended to 1) make continuous improvement more accessible and less intimidating and 2) increase the likelihood of successfully creating a business management system that drives continuous improvement.

Practical Guide Vision

We envision a step-by-step guide that will walk you through the challenge of creating a business management system built upon a continuous improvement culture. Companies working through the guide should be highly competitive in their market and become sought after places of employment.

We also see this as an evolving resource. Because it is posted online, it will benefit from the input of the Lean community and continuously improve itself.

Your Challenge

We produce this guide from the perspective of the average company with typical needs. If you are at all familiar with averages, that means it will progress too quickly for half of you and too slowly for the other half. It means that it will be too complicated for 50% of you and too simplistic for the other 50%. Half of you will find our challenges to you too aggressive, and the other half will think we don’t go far enough. Fortunately, if you also understand normal distributions (bell curves), you’ll know that most of you will be fairly close to what we designed for, but it will never be a perfect match.

What that means to you is that this program will need some adjustment to work in your specific situation. You cannot treat it like a cookie cutter approach. Use the tools the way they are designed, but apply a healthy dose of common sense. Skip sections liberally, and augment others. Or add in complete sections you design on your own if we don’t address something you need.

The bottom line is that only you know what you truly need. Use us as a starting point to make an even better business management system for your company.

Practical Guide Directory


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