is to raise to a higher or more desirable quality, value, or
condition; to make a change for the better; to use to good
advantage, utilize well; to increase something's excellence or
value. Real improvement is both the objective and the result of the
other three I's: continuous improvement
in the way we think and work, leading
ultimately to the achievement of excellence. Continuous improvement
is a process of frequent incremental, often small, advances with a
constant pace (that have an exponential cumulative effect).
focus should be on eliminating waste: identifying non-value-adding
processes in all aspects of our business operations and
eliminating them bit by bit in an ongoing effort. We should then be
world-class in quality, product value, customer service and
profitability. Fujio Cho of Toyota defines waste as "anything
other than the minimum amount of equipment, materials, parts, space,
and worker's time, which are essential to add value to the
and Bane  remind us that the real secret is mindset. The concept
of continuous improvement is probably the hardest concept
to grasp—the idea of doing it over and over, as a process not
a project, a race with no finish line. The Japanese have
shown us the power of this mindset as they built huge leads on us by
making small, incremental improvements while we in the U.S. were
trying to make the "big score" masterpiece.
"We must not look
for just an improvement in our performance, no matter how
significant. We must find a way to establish an ongoing, never
ending process of improvement." So say Eli Goldratt and
Robert Fox in The Race . They state that Just-in-Time
techniques, new technology and good management practices should be
brought to bear where they will have the greatest impact, and will
result in a continuous increase in net profit, ROI and cash flow.
They recommend identifying and zooming in on our real constraints to
break them, then moving on to the new constraints (internal or
external) in a continual focused effort.
only way to secure and improve our competitive position in today's
accelerating-change environment is by instituting a process of
ongoing improvement. To make this process effective, we must obtain
wide- spread commitment throughout the organization, so that there
is a complete acceptance of the continuous improvement process.
Education is one key to this acceptance and commitment.
establish standards as the basis for improvement contends Kiyoshi
. By setting standards and practicing management by exception we
are able to solve each problem and then improve the standard to
eliminate the cause. Constant monitoring and revision (improvement)
of the standards when necessary will support an ongoing operations
improvement process. A company's competitive position is enhanced
when each worker follows the standards and pays attention to
improvement activities. All improvement ideas are to be encouraged
and adopted to maintain the process.
Resource Management is one key to this process. William Boyst 
relates the wise saying that "Systems only make things possible—it
is people who make things happen." We must develop
multi-disciplined, multifunctional employees who are focused on
continuous improvement for themselves and their company. Education
by enlightened management are keys to this development. An employee
involvement program is the mechanism for achieving the results.
Martin Company discovered that employees can and will rise to the
occasion, according to David Garvin . They were able to achieve
a perfect zero defects process by "demanding
perfection." They instilled this principle in their work force
through training, special events, and recognition of the positive
efforts of each worker.
Harwood and Pieters
 relate their successful efforts at Signetics in implementing a
quality improvement process supported by broad-based education,
strong management direction, measurable goals, and effective
employee involvement. The result was a very successful, ongoing
improvement process that produced increased market share, lower
costs, and reduced production lead times.