Constant Improvement: How It Works and How to Master It
What, exactly, is Constant Improvement?
Constant Improvement: This is a dedication to making small changes and improvements every day, with the expectation that those small improvements will add up to something significant.
A continual improvement process, also often called a Constant improvement process (abbreviated as CIP or CI), is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once.
The typical approach to self-improvement is to set a large goal, then try to take big leaps in order to accomplish the goal in as little time as possible. While this may sound good in theory, it often ends in burnout, frustration, and failure. Instead, we should focus on Constant improvement by slowly and slightly adjusting our normal everyday habits and behaviors.
It is so easy to dismiss the value of making slightly better decisions on a daily basis. Sticking with the fundamentals is not impressive. Falling in love with boredom is not sexy. Getting one percent better isn’t going to make headlines.
Constant Improvement How Does It Work?
So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some mind-blowing improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.
In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t.
Here’s the logic:
If you get one percent better each day for one year, you’ll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you’re done.
This is why small choices don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.
Steps to Constant Improvement
Now, let’s talk about a few quick steps you can take right now to start focusing on Constant improvement.
Do More of What Already Works: We often waste the resources and ideas at our fingertips because they don’t seem new and exciting. There are many examples of behaviors, big and small, that have the opportunity to drive progress in our lives if we just did them with more consistency.
Flossing every day, never missing workouts, performing fundamental business tasks each day, not just when you have time and apologizing more often. Progress often hides behind boring solutions and underused insights. You don’t need more information. You don’t need a better strategy. You just need to do more of what already works.
Avoid Tiny Losses: In many cases, improvement is not about doing more things right, but about doing fewer things wrong. This is a concept called improvement by subtraction, which is focused on doing less of what doesn’t work: eliminating mistakes, reducing complexity, and stripping away the inessential.
Here are some examples:
- Education: Avoid stupid mistakes, make fewer mental errors.
- Investing: Never lose money, limit your risk.
- Web Design: Remove the on-page elements that distract visitors.
- Exercise: Miss fewer workouts.
- Nutrition: Eat fewer unhealthy foods.
In the real world, it is often easier to improve your performance by cutting the downside rather than capturing the upside. Subtraction is more practical than addition. One of the best ways to make big gains is to avoid tiny losses.
Measure Backward: We often measure our progress by looking forward. We set goals. We plan milestones for our progress. Basically, we try to predict the future to some degree. There is an opposite and, I think, more useful approach: measure backward, not forward.
Measuring backward means you make decisions based on what has already happened, not on what you want to happen.
Here are a few examples:
- Weight Loss: Measure your calorie intake. Did you eat 3,500 calories per day last week? Focus on averaging 3,400 per day this week.
- Strength Training: Oh, you squatted 250 pounds for 5 sets of 5 reps last week? Give 255 pounds a try this week.
- Relationships: How many new people did you meet last week? Zero? Focus on introducing yourself to one new person this week.
- Entrepreneurship: You only landed two clients last week while your average is five? It sounds like you should be focused on making more sales calls this week.
Measure backward and then get a little bit better. What did you do last week? How can you improve by just a little bit this week?
In conclusion, To truly get ahead of your competition, your business processes should be operating at maximum efficiency. After all, process efficiency can be a major influence on company productivity, profits, and agility. The best way to achieve this is through Constant Improvement.
Constant improvement is, as the name suggests, a practice of constantly re-examining and improving processes. At a glance, the whole concept might seem a bit of a buzzword. You keep hearing the word thrown around, but no one really mentions what it involves doing. And as we all know, the theory doesn’t get you too far in the business world.
All the confusion with Constant improvement is because it’s not something that you “do.” Rather, it’s a way a company operates. Adopting Constant improvement in a company means two things… Even if your business is doing phenomenally now, that isn’t destined to last forever.
A changing economy, new technology, budget concerns, and staff shortages are all dynamics that will eventually force you to make adjustments. An organization that embraces Constant improvements will be able to act on these changes and stay on course. A rigid, authoritarian company, on the other hand, will not.
If you need help creating a culture of Constant improvement in your company, workflow management software can help. Telling your employees that they’re going to be doing something differently is one thing, enforcing it is something completely different. Digitize your processes, create changes and track them from start to finish.