Continuous Improvement Techniques

Business publications promote many techniques for improvement. Here are samples of some popular techniqu

European Foundation for Quality Management(EFQM) 

«For the past twenty years we have shared what works between our member organizations as a way to help them implement their strategies: a mission which is as important as ever.» «EFQM is the recognized leader in promoting and supporting the implementation of Sustainable Excellence.»[] 

Total Quality Management (TQM)

«TQM has focused attention on the creative potential of human beings and their ability to improve the work that they do».[Rothwell, Sullivan and McLean, “Practicing Organization Development”, Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA, USA, 1995, page 30]

Dr. W. Edwards Deming developed the TQM approach. He gained fame from his work with the Japanese after World War II. His famous “14 points” appear on the Activity sheet at the resources section of this chapter.

«Total quality management (TQM) is a management philosophy that seeks to integrate all organisional functions (marketing, finance, design, engineering, and production, customer service, etc.) to focus on meeting customer needs and organizational objectives. TQM empowers the total organision, from the employee to the CEO, with the responsibility of ensuring Quality in their respective products and services, and Management of their processes through the appropriate process improvement channels».[] 


«Reengineering encourages managers and employees to rethink what they do and how they do it as a means to achieve an advantage.»[ Rothwell, Sullivan and McLean, “Practicing Organision Development”, Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, San Francisco, CA, USA, 1995, page 30]

In planning, this means that you look at what you do now to see if it is right for the future. In budgeting, you give people the resources they really need rather than spending money on things that will not make a positive difference.

In reengineering, you look closely at current procedures and workflows. You document them. Then, you look closely to find bottlenecks and ways to streamline. If you have never done this, you may find a lot of ways to improve. One organision, looking at its procedures found this one: «Make a copy before you throw anything away.»

In reengineering, you also look at things from the customer’s point of view. You may think that you give good customer service but you may be surprised at what you find if you «pretend» to be the customer: Call the main number and see what happens. Visit your own website and see what happens. Follow the steps that a customer might take at your offices and see what happens.


In Benchmarking, an organision compares itself to other organizations in its industry to find ways that it might improve its performance. Sometimes, benchmarking is not a perfect method because it is very hard to find two organizations that are exactly the same in terms of size, functions, challenge, etc. Nevertheless, looking at how other organizations perform and how they do it can be a source of good ideas for improvement.

International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

Many organizations are using the resources of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that promotes standardization and certification of best practices.   ISO 9000 is primarily concerned with

«quality management of ... all those features of a product (or service) which are required by the customer. ISO 14000 is primarily concerned with what the organization does to minimize harmful effects on the environment caused by its activities.» []  

«ISO 9001:2008 provides a set of standardized requirements for a quality management system, regardless of what the user organision does, its size, or whether it is in the private, or public sector. It is the only standard in the family against which organisions can be certified – although certification is not a compulsory requirement of the standard.»[] 

These standards as well as the ISO for Utilities Series (24510, 24511 and 24512) are discussed more fully in the Quality Management chapter.