A Career in Continuous Improvement (2022)

A Career in Continuous Improvement (1)

Sometimes the smallest act of recognition can bring people to tears.

Even a simple printout of someone’s idea can make him or her feel validated and seen. In his long career in quality, Jim Smith recalled one employee suggestion program that involved printing up the person’s name, their idea and basic information, done on a dot-matrix printer. It was meant just for recordkeeping, but people started taking the papers home with them. One employee, who had been with the company for forty years, came up with an idea that would save the company about six thousand dollars. Later, Smith ran into him and his wife at the mall. His wife threw her arms around Jim and gave him a hug. She told him this was the first time her husband had felt appreciated at work. The man had tears in his eyes.

While it shouldn’t take 40 years for an employee to feel appreciated, continuous improvement programs can help this happen. If done right, a continuous improvement program can provide much deserved recognition along with cost savings and streamlined workflow.

Continuous improvement is a never-ending initiative. Employee suggestions are one way to accomplish this but there are many ways to go about it. Here we’ll discuss how to work on improvement programs as well as some things not to do.

(Video) CC Career in Continuous Improvement

Making Things Better

Done right, continuous improvement can lead to feeling pride in your work as well as better processes. Continuous improvement might take the form of a Six Sigma project, lean, Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) cycle, kaizen events, or benchmarking. Employee suggestion boxes are another method.

“There’s a lot of different versions,” says Smith, who did his master’s thesis on the subject and has written a continuous improvement study guide. “It’s whatever works for the company. It doesn’t happen by itself. Management would like to think it does. No matter where I was at, I always had the continuous improvement program; we saw that as being highly connected to the quality program. When I did my thesis, my thought was that paying for ideas was the best way to generate all the people to be involved. That proved to be false. It really comes down to people need to feel rewarded, no matter how you do that.”

Smith says he always looked at how the quality system is functioning and how healthy the continuous improvement program is.

A Career in Continuous Improvement (2)

Podcast: A Career In Continuous Improvement

Jim Spichiger, past-chair of the ASQ Inspection Division and a long-time quality expert, discusses how continuous improvement projects might work, misconceptions about the process, and improvement successes from his own career.

(Video) Continuous Improvement Manager - The Role and Responsibilities

“Not everybody does that,” Smith says. When he benchmarked his thesis, he covered about 150 companies and visited about 70. Companies often “talked a good game,” Smith says, but a visit showed a different story. Accounting or HR might be in charge of continuous improvement, for example.

“There’s no silver bullet here. If you want to engage people, it doesn’t happen automatically. If you’ve had a regressive culture, you don’t turn that around overnight,” Smith says. “It might take a lot of effort.”

And here’s a little of what not to do.

Once during a benchmarking trip, Smith saw an automotive plant with white boards in a few project areas that mentioned “heads” with a number. He wasn’t sure if this was referring to the head of an air nozzle or some other device. When he asked, management told him it was the headcount number they were looking to reduce. He was appalled and told them so. Having the audacity to list this in front of staff was no doubt demoralizing and went against everything a continuous improvement program stands for. Management should assure their staff that no one would lose their job over a continuous improvement program. They might be reassigned to another task or division, but their work is secure.

Another Way Of Doing Things

Back in the early 1980s, Smith recalled a plant that faced closure, which would put 6,000 people out of work. Management would transfer to another facility but hourly would not. Smith visited the facility, and talked to senior managers. At the time, they had only a few ideas a month coming in from the 6,000 employees. With a blackboard behind him, Smith told them, “If you implement the program” and then took the chalk and drew a line that went up almost vertically. This got their attention. “Within six months, the activity went from four to eight ideas a month to 200 or 300 a month,” he says.

“Continuous improvement is about a way of life,” Smith says. “What you have to do as a company is to encourage that culture where everybody is participating.”

Is there a better way of doing it? This was the sentence guiding their work. When people work at a job, they will naturally come up with ways to streamline and improve the process, Smith says. Another program he was involved with treated every manufacturing area as its own entity, or its own company. Every area had to track cost of quality and continuous improvement.

(Video) What CI specialists and managers do | The role of Continuous Improvement in organisations

To determine if costs were too high, they would look at costs for the previous month and see if they were out of line and if so, what they needed to do about it. This dramatically improved things. The program also had near 100% participation from hourly workers, and eventually was expanded all over the world, including plants in China and Brazil.

Another option is a kaizen event, which might be a three to five day project where the team develops a list of what to do, with managers and in some cases even the president participating. This meant hourly employees rubbing elbows with the CEO. This can change perceptions, Smith said; by the end of the project, staff might be saying we instead of I.


“As quality professionals, continuous improvement is our ultimate goal,” says Jim Spichiger, “so obviously where you would begin is with training.”

Spichiger, a former chair of the ASQ Inspection Division with more than 35 years of quality experience, says lean and problem solving overlap with each other. A continuous improvement idea may begin by considering the projects you want to address, how to go about it, and the data you might need.

One of his first projects with an early employer involved changing the company culture. Most continuous improvement projects were last-minute efforts and not very effective. He was told, “You can keep the deadlines the same, but things should be done sooner. For example, with a 90-day deadline, we would like most of the projects done within 45 days.’ He thought, “How do I change that? How do I change procrastination?”

But he was able to address this. His team walked themselves through the data, looking for root causes and potential solutions, and then were able to meet their goals. “This showed me that the methodology works and almost anything can be solved,” Spichiger says. “Major changes are possible, not only changing processes but changing thinking and culture is very possible.”

While there are many tools, they are also many areas for improvement on a manufacturing floor. “You’re always challenged with production problems,” says Spichiger. “There’s never a lack of things to do and ways to make things better.”

(Video) Meet Continuous Improvement Manager, Donna | My #SmashingStereotypes story

The way to do that is through determining the root cause of a problem—not simply following up on a hunch, which may delay finding the real issue, he notes.

For those who may not be interested in continuous improvement, Spichiger says that success is the best way to change this. After a few successful projects, even the skeptics acknowledge that these methods really work.

Spichiger recalls a previous position where the IT department was “the toughest nut to crack.” The department was skeptical and thought quality knew nothing about IT. Which was true, Spichiger says, but “we knew processes, how to work processes and how to solve problems.”

Eventually, the IT department became the biggest advocates of continuous improvement—but it took years to get to that point.

“As you grow and have more success, more people will buy into it,” Spichiger says. Eventually, the staff started doing these things on their own.

Along with training, Spichiger says continuous improvement learning goes beyond the classroom. Attending conferences and networking can provide access to a host of resources. Spichiger notes that this network has helped simplify his life and it has been satisfying to be able to help others as well.


How do you answer a continuous improvement question? ›

Sample Answer

When answering this question, you should try to make your answer sound something like this: To me, continuous improvement is an attitude. Recognizing that there are ways you can improve yourself and taking the steps to become better at your job. I always try to exhibit this attitude.

What is a good answer for areas of improvement? ›

You can provide an answer that's easy to understand by describing particular skills you plan to develop or knowledge you want to gain. For example, rather than saying you want to become a better manager, you could say you want to improve your ability to delegate tasks.

Is continuous improvement a good career? ›

CI Managers also have the potential to make a great living as well. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a Continuous Improvement Manager is $84k annually plus benefits but can range between $55k and $118k annual salary.

How do you prepare for a continuous improvement interview? ›

General continuous improvement engineer interview questions

What do you believe is the most important part of your job? What is one area of production most companies could improve? What qualities and skills do you think a continuous improvement employee should possess? What motivates you in the workplace?

What is an example of continuous improvement? ›

Employee training, skills development, cross-training programs, educational benefits, and courses can all be seen as examples of continuous improvement. Most employees will come into a job with a particular set of skills and competencies and develop some more in their day-to-day work.

How do you explain continuous improvement? ›

Continuous improvement, sometimes called continual improvement, is the ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements. These efforts can seek "incremental" improvement over time or "breakthrough" improvement all at once.

What are 3 good areas of improvement? ›

Areas of improvement for employees
  • 1) Time management. Time management is crucial to your business's success. ...
  • 2) Organization. Organization can make time management much easier. ...
  • 3) Interpersonal communication. ...
  • 4) Customer service. ...
  • 5) Cooperation. ...
  • 6) Conflict resolution. ...
  • 7) Listening. ...
  • 8) Written communication.

How do you answer what skills do you want to improve? ›

How to answer "What skills would you like to improve?"
  1. Think about your skill set. Think about your existing skills. ...
  2. Choose a skill. Based on your list, choose a skill or area you most want to improve. ...
  3. Discuss why you want to improve. ...
  4. Explain your current competency. ...
  5. Ask how the job or company may help.

What are your strengths and improvement areas? ›

Some examples of strengths you might mention include:
  • Enthusiasm.
  • Trustworthiness.
  • Creativity.
  • Discipline.
  • Patience.
  • Respectfulness.
  • Determination.
  • Dedication.

Is continuous improvement a skill? ›

Having the right skills for continuous improvement

The quality profession attracts highly skilled practitioners who work to improve upon all of the elements within their organisation. They are champions of finding better, more refined ways of working, and innovating processes so they reach their full efficiency.

Why is continuous improvement so important? ›

Continuous improvement drives both the improvement of processes and products. Companies that actively look for ways to enhance their business will invariably increase the value of their products and services. This will lead to more sophisticated and overall more economically competitive offerings.

What does continuous improvement mean to you interview question? ›

Example: “My personal philosophy on continuous improvement is that every employee can make small changes to their work processes or behaviors to improve efficiency and quality. I believe that by encouraging employees to think critically about their daily tasks, they can find ways to improve them.

What qualities should staff have for continuous improvement? ›

Communication, engagement, and goal-setting are important behaviors for continuous improvement leadership, but they don't result in anything without a direct focus on getting results.

What are the qualities that make a successful continuous improvement program? ›

The most successful and impactful Continuous Improvement Programs do the following: Obtain commitment throughout the organization: Staff at all levels must be supportive of the same Continuous Improvement goals. Ensure everyone is involved: Staff at all levels need to be involved in the Continuous Improvement Process.

What is a continuous improvement mindset? ›

Core to a continuous improvement mindset is the belief that a steady stream of improvements, diligently executed, will have transformational results. Continuous improvement has helped clients across industries provide greater value to their customers.

How do you keep continuous improvement? ›

6 Tips to Starting and Sustaining Your Continuous Improvement...
  1. 1) Focus on gradual small changes instead of major shifts. ...
  2. 2) Prioritize ideas that are inexpensive. ...
  3. 3) Gather ideas from the people doing the work. ...
  4. 4) Empower employees for improvement. ...
  5. 5) Use regular feedback. ...
  6. 6) Measure the impacts.
5 Aug 2017

How do you write a continuous improvement report? ›

The purpose is both to document and demonstrate improvements and to share best practices among health-care institutions.
  1. Select the title. ...
  2. Create a problem statement. ...
  3. Validate project results. ...
  4. Detail the analysis methodology and findings. ...
  5. Summarize the improvement action plan. ...
  6. Quantify the results.

How do you introduce continuous improvement in the workplace? ›

Building A Workplace Culture Of Continuous Improvement
  1. Choose small, manageable improvements. ...
  2. Monitor improvement with the plan-do-check-act method. ...
  3. Provide timely feedback. ...
  4. Unleash your employees. ...
  5. Motivate your employees.
1 May 2016

Why should we hire you answer best? ›

Show that you have skills and experience to do the job and deliver great results. You never know what other candidates offer to the company. But you know you: emphasize your key skills, strengths, talents, work experience, and professional achievements that are fundamental to getting great things done on this position.

How do you improve professionally? ›

How to develop professionally
  1. Expand your network. Expanding your professional network is a great way to develop professionally. ...
  2. Look for ways to improve your transferable skills. ...
  3. Find a mentor. ...
  4. Learn some new digital skills. ...
  5. Learn new time management strategies. ...
  6. Set goals. ...
  7. Read personal development books.
17 Mar 2022

What are top 3 ways to improve on performance? ›

Practicing self-care, prioritizing organization, and acquiring new skills are fundamental practices that can help you improve work performance. These tips may seem obsolete but when applied collectively over time, they will make a huge difference in your overall performance at work.

What skills can you bring to this role Example answer? ›

“I can bring positivity, experience, a creative approach to solving problems, and the ability to embrace change enthusiastically. I can bring drive, a passion for this industry, and the ability to always treat your clients and customers in a way that will ensure they become long-term advocates of the business.

What makes you ideal for this position? ›

Focus on your personality or personal traits that make you unique and the best fit for the job. Also, you can emphasize skills that are specific to you, because not many people possess them, and they are sure to make you the ideal candidate for the position.

How will you describe yourself? ›

Example: "I am ambitious and driven. I thrive on challenges and constantly set goals for myself, so I have something to strive toward. I'm not comfortable with settling, and I'm always looking for an opportunity to do better and achieve greatness. I was promoted three times in less than two years in my previous role."

What can you bring to the company? ›

How to (and how not to) answer the interview question 'What can you bring to the company? ' The simple answer to this question is you : you bring all of your skills, qualities, values, interests, academic knowledge, internships and life experience to the company.

What are 4 principles of continuous improvement? ›

Four Principles of Continuous Improvement are as follows:

Principle 1: Stop fixing and start improving. Principle 2: The best practices are the ones you already have. Principle 3: Changing behaviour is more important than changing processes. Principle 4: If you aren't failing, you aren't trying.

What are the three 3 basic principles of continuous improvement? ›

3 Basic Principles: Kaizen, Challenge, Go and See (The Three Basic Priniciples of a Continuous Improvement Firm - CIF) Have a long term → vision of the challenges you need to face to realize your ambition – what you need to → learn rather than what you want to do and then have the spirit to face that challenge.

What are the 3 aspects of continuous improvement? ›

A helpful way of understanding continuous improvement is by dividing it into three phases: learning, sharing, and implementing.

What are 5 areas of improvement? ›

Areas of improvement are skills, qualities or abilities that an employee could develop or enhance. Areas of improvement could include time management, delegation, organization, communication and engagement. Many of these skills and abilities are those that employees use daily at work.

What are 3 areas you would like to improve in yourself? ›

If you're looking for things to do to improve yourself, here are 20 practical self-development tips:
  • Do an online course.
  • Learn a language.
  • Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Start a business.
  • Read more.
  • Stick to an exercise routine.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Consume positive podcasts and videos.
30 Oct 2020

What skills are required for continuous improvement? ›

What are the most important Continuous Improvement Manager job skills to have on my resume? The most common important skills required by employers are Six Sigma, Supply Chain Experience, Technical, Process Improvement, Project Management, Black Belt and Kaizen.

What is the best continuous improvement method? ›

What Are the Most Popular Methods for Managing Continuous Improvement?
  • DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Adjust) are variations of the continuous improvement cycle. ...
  • Daily huddles are a prevalent practice in organizations dedicated to continuous improvement.
10 Jan 2019

What are the key success factors for effective continuous improvement? ›

There are several key success factors to continuous improvement.
  • Management Support. Devoting effort to identify root causes and develop solutions take time away from the day-to-day work. ...
  • Understanding of the big picture. There would be numerous opportunities for improvement. ...
  • Involvement of people. ...
  • Delivering value.
3 Feb 2021

What is the primary goal of the continuous improvement? ›

Continuous improvement strives to accomplish two main goals, namely, streamline workflows and reduce waste. Together, these work to reduce costs and optimise outputs, whether that be the quality of a product or service.


1. Quitting my job to become continuous improvement consultant and lean trainer
(Tom Mentink)
2. Continuous Improvement Engineer - The Role and the Responsibilites
3. Black Belt Career in Quality and Continuous Improvement
4. Continuous Improvement Engineer | Manufacturing Career Videos
(Optimax Systems)
5. “Tell Me About A Time You Improved A Process?” (INTERVIEW QUESTION and TOP-SCORING ANSWER!)
6. A Day in the Life of a Continuous Improvement Officer
(Avon and Somerset Police)

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Twana Towne Ret

Last Updated: 09/27/2022

Views: 5647

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Twana Towne Ret

Birthday: 1994-03-19

Address: Apt. 990 97439 Corwin Motorway, Port Eliseoburgh, NM 99144-2618

Phone: +5958753152963

Job: National Specialist

Hobby: Kayaking, Photography, Skydiving, Embroidery, Leather crafting, Orienteering, Cooking

Introduction: My name is Twana Towne Ret, I am a famous, talented, joyous, perfect, powerful, inquisitive, lovely person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.