Continuous improvement is a balance between technology and teams

Continuous improvement is a balance between technology and teams

Jack Gill

18 February 2022 - 5 min read

Digital TransformationContinuous Improvement
Continuous improvement is a balance between technology and teams

Continuous improvement is, in many ways, the embodiment of sustainability. Originating from the Japanese notion of kaizen, which means ‘change for better’, continuous improvement aims to find new ways to enhance efficiency throughout operations.

This entails (continuously) evaluating existing processes and services to find how to optimise output while minimising waste. Today, continuous improvement is adopted by businesses across many sectors who are eager to discover cost-effective solutions and improve their development. 

As its name suggests, continuous improvement does not have an end point. It is very much an ongoing process that employees should gradually adopt into their day-to-day tasks. While this might seem intimidating to businesses, this transition should be embraced as an opportunity for innovation and collaboration. 

Because of the rapid growth of technology, as well as the increased accessibility of solution providers, using technological solutions to support continuous improvement programmes has become increasingly achievable. 

Teams are also more adapted for continuous improvement processes as a result of the development of working methodologies. For example, an agile approach uses an iterative approach, which is comparable to the central principle of continuous improvement. 

How organisations unite these two areas under continuous improvement is the key to efficiency and successful operations. This article will identify some of the key benefits that continuous improvement can bring throughout projects. 

Technology facilitates improvement 

Continuous improvement and technology share a common node for reducing complexity. Both areas, as such, aim to uncover better working techniques through innovation. As operational processes become more complicated and old methodologies become inefficient, digitally adapted continuous improvement frameworks are required. 

The growing hybridisation of the workforce only emphasises these requirements. Distributed teams need tools that allow them to readily access data and seamlessly collaborate with colleagues. 

Here is where cloud-based technologies can be a great facilitator of continuous improvement. These systems make data widely accessible to users, which provides greater visibility, and ensures that team members can work in collaboration wherever they may be. This accessibility means that teams can quickly examine any issues that occur and evaluate the available solutions. 

There are cases where AI is drastically helping these processes too. AI empowers development teams to examine their processes more efficiently by assisting them to read and analyse large amounts of data quickly.

AI could use this power to predict how probable changes would influence an organisation in the future, based on prior outcomes and additional variables. With research showing that 54% of all improvements improves product quality overall, the ability to spot and resolve potential bottlenecks is crucial to project success. 

Teams improve and transform

Continuous improvement without human intelligence can only be so successful. An over dependence on technology can sever employees' understanding of processes and a lack of knowledge in this area reduces the ability to make improvements. 

Opportunities for continuous improvement are beneficial to teams, not merely because they benefit the entire organisation. It also motivates employees to do the kind of hard work that propels transformation and innovation forward. To help enhance buy-in to these improvement initiatives, it’s critical to communicate this value at a team level. 

By its nature, continuous improvement requires change. This could prove to be particularly fruitful for employees with repetitive workloads. Opportunities for improvement offer respite from this grind and opens the door to innovation.

Undergoing these developments also allows for short-term goals to be formulated, which can then inspire teams to accomplish things that they might not ordinarily do in their normal responsibilities. 

In any case, continuous improvement allows team members to further strengthen their abilities by working through any necessary changes to a product. 

In addition, continuous improvement creates an open communication atmosphere. Improvement entails change which is, in turn, fuelled by suggestions and criticism. People are more willing to speak up with their own ideas when it is evident that the team is striving to improve.

So while technology acts as a key enabler for improving working processes, these benefits only come to fruition when implemented into a culture of improvement with teams who are driven to innovate.

Unifying these areas — people and processes — under a framework of technology will ensure that the project's value and ROI are increased. 

Iteration leads to innovation

Iterative development acts as the glue that binds teams and technology together. Continuous improvement is fundamentally a culture change and, therefore, the key to its success comes from working with an approach that compliments your working culture. 

Under an agile approach, software development meshes easily with continuous improvement processes. The focus on ongoing feedback loops and releases, in particular, aids functionality, whilst reducing issues before they escalate.

Again, the clue’s in the name; being agile will allow you to effectively respond to unexpected developments in your project and reach solutions faster. The ability to adapt to changes — be they in working environments, markets or client requirements — ensures competitive advantage even in the most uncertain times. 

In projects, for example, the requirements will have often changed by the time you've finished developing a project or process. That's why a more incremental approach, which can be iterated over time, is more beneficial. 

This iteration phase will also give teams additional visibility into the earlier stages of development; this access means that they can better evaluate success, drawbacks and anything else that can help meet long-term objectives. 

Crucially, companies should emphasise the value of continuous improvement and incorporate it into each stage of their working processes. As teams form an intimate understanding of these processes and the technology that supports them, organisations will begin to see the full benefits of continuous improvement — in productivity, performance and much more.

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Jack Gill manages digital content at Audacia. He writes on a number of industry topics, including technology trends, leadership and digital transformation.