What is Continuous Improvement?
The term continuous improvement can be very abstract if not placed in a specific context. Explained shortly, it is a never-ending strive for perfection in everything you do.
Understanding the theory behind it is the first step in applying continuous improvement to your management culture. In order to set yourself up for continuous improvement, you need to create a suitable environment within your company.
These efforts can seek "incremental" improvement over time or "breakthrough" improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility.
A broader definition is that of the Institute of Quality Assurance who defined "continuous improvement as a gradual never-ending change which is: '... focused on increasing the effectiveness and/or efficiency of an organization to fulfil its policy and objectives. It is not limited to quality initiatives. Improvement in business strategy, business results, customer, employee and supplier relationships can be subject to continual improvement. Put simply, it means ‘getting better all the time’.
To be successful, efforts must follow the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle. This cycle is similar to the scientific method, in which you pose a question, gather background data, construct a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, analyze the results, and draw a conclusion. In Lean however, the cycle doesn't end, you simply start again. If improvements were gained, they become the new standard moving forward. If improvements were not realized, then you must adjust your plan.
Continuous Improvement (CI) at Agency of Transportation
The Agency of Transportation began its Lean journey in the fall of 2015 within the Performance, Innovation and Excellence section of F&A.
Since that time, the CI program has addressed 29 distinct projects with a focus on improving the process work done every day at VTrans as well as trained over 233 staff on the principles of Lean and CI.
The CI Program is located within the Performance Section in the VTrans Finance and Administration Division.
Summarized below are the key areas for implementing Lean and the individuals responsible for fulfilling them within VTrans :
VTrans CI Program Manager runs the day-to-day operations of the program including but not limited to; support trained green belts through continuous professional development, project management and development, communications, program evaluation and collaboration across the Agency and State of Vermont.