Continual improvement processA continual improvement process (CIP or CI), also often called a continuous improvement process (usage preference discussed below), is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. 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. Some see CIPs as a meta-process for most management systems (such as business process management, quality management, project management, and program management). W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer of the field, saw it as part of the 'system' whereby feedback from the process and customer were evaluated against organisational goals. The fact that it can be called a management process does not mean that it needs to be executed by 'management'; but rather merely that it makes decisions about the implementation of the delivery process and the design of the delivery process itself. Some successful implementations use the approach known as Kaizen (the translation of kai (change) zen (good) is improvement). This method became famous by the book of Masaaki Imai Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success. The core principle of CIP is the (self) reflection of processes. (Feedback) The purpose of CIP is the identification, reduction, and elimination of suboptimal processes. (Efficiency) The emphasis of CIP is on incremental, continual steps rather than giant leaps. (Evolution)Contents[hide]
1 Key features 2 Implementation 3 Continual improvement in environmental management 4 "Continuous" versus "continual" 5 See also 6 References
Key features of Kaizen include: Improvements are based on many, small changes rather than the radical changes that might arise from Research and Development As the ideas come from the workers themselves, they are less likely to be radically different, and therefore easier to implement Small improvements are less likely to require major capital investment than major process changes
The ideas come from the talents of the existing workforce, as opposed to using R&D, consultants or equipment any of which could be very expensive All employees should continually be seeking ways to improve their own performance It helps encourage workers to take ownership for their work, and can help reinforce team working, thereby improving worker motivation.
The elements above are the more tactical elements of CIP. The more strategic elements include deciding how to increase the value of the delivery process output to the customer (Effectiveness) and how much  flexibility is valuable in the process to meet changing needs. Implementation The involvement of all workers require training, it is necessary to be able to distinguish between symptom and ailment so that efforts are spent solving the root causes of the problem. One example of broad training in continuous improvement techniques is Facila, the southern European Lifelong Learning program where students learn to apply mathematics to everyday situations by preparing Kaizen style projects. Continual
improvement in environmental management
The CIP-concept is also used in Environmental Management Systems (EMS), such as ISO 14000 and EMAS. The term "continual improvement", not "continuous improvement", is used in ISO 14000, and is understood to refer to an ongoing series of small or large-scale improvements which are each done discretely, i.e. in a step-wise fashion. Several differences exist between the CIP concept as it is applied in quality management and environmental management. CIP in EMS aims to improve the natural consequences of products and activities, not the products and activities as such. Secondly, there is no client-orientation in EMS-related CIP. Also, CIP in EMS is not limited to small, incremental  improvements as in Kaizen, it also includes innovations of any scale (Gastl) "Continuous"
In English-language linguistic prescription there is a common piece of usage advice that the word "continuous" should be used for things that are continuous in a way literally or figuratively equal to the mathematical sense of the word, whereas the word "continual" should be used for things that continue in discrete jumps (that is, quantum-wise). When this distinction is enforced, it is more accurate to speak of "continual improvement" and "continual improvement processes" than of "continuous improvement" or "continuous improvement processes". Meanwhile, for several decades it has been common usage in the linguistic corpus of business management to use the one set term, "continuous improvement", to cover both of those graph shapes in umbrella fashion. It is merely the way the word has been conventionally used in this context, in a common understanding that existed regardless of prescriptive preferences. However, ISO has chosen the more careful usage for its standards including ISO 9000 and ISO 14000; so it may be reasonable to expect that usage among business managers will evolve in coming decades to conform to the preferred usage (and in some cases, already has)
BenchmarkingBenchmarking is the process of comparing one's business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and/or best practices from other industries. Dimensions typically measured are quality, time and cost. In the process of benchmarking, management identifies the best firms in their industry, or in another industry where similar processes exist, and compare the results and processes of those studied (the "targets") to one's own results and processes. In this way, they learn how well the targets perform and, more importantly, the business processes that explain why these firms are successful. The term benchmarking was first used by cobblers to measure people's feet for shoes. They would place someone's foot on a "bench" and mark it out to make the pattern for the shoes. Benchmarking is used to measure performance using a specific indicator (cost per unit of measure, productivity per unit of measure, cycle time of x per unit of measure or defects per unit of measure) resulting in a metric of  performance that is then compared to others. Also referred to as "best practice benchmarking" or "process benchmarking", this process is used in management and particularly strategic management, in which organizations evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice companies' processes, usually within a peer group defined for the purposes of comparison. This then allows organizations to develop plans on how to make improvements or adapt specific best practices, usually with the aim of increasing some aspect of performance. Benchmarking may be a one-off event, but is often treated as a continuous process in which organizations continually seek to improve their practices.Contents[hide]
1 Benefits and use 2 Collaborative benchmarking 3 Procedure 4 Costs 5 Technical/product benchmarking 6 Types 7 Tools 8 Metric benchmarking 9 See also 10 References
In 2008, a comprehensive survey on benchmarking was commissioned by The Global Benchmarking Network, a network of benchmarking centers representing 22 countries. Over 450 organizations responded from over 40 countries. The results showed that:
1. Mission and Vision Statements and Customer (Client) Surveys are the most used (by 77% of organizations of 20 improvement tools, followed by SWOT analysis(72%), and Informal Benchmarking (68%). Performance Benchmarking was used by 49% and Best Practice Benchmarking by 39%. 2. The tools that are likely to increase in popularity the most over the next three years are Performance Benchmarking, Informal Benchmarking, SWOT, and Best Practice Benchmarking. Over 60% of organizations that are not currently using these tools indicated they are likely to use them in the next three years. Collaborative
Benchmarking, originally described as a formal process by Rank Xerox, is usually carried out by individual companies. Sometimes it may be carried out collaboratively by groups of companies (e.g. subsidiaries of a multinational in different countries). One example is that of theDutch municipally-owned water supply companies, which have carried out a voluntary collaborative benchmarking process since 1997 through their industry association. Another example is the UK construction industry which has carried out benchmarking since the late 1990s again through its industry association and with financial support from the UK Government. Procedure There is no single benchmarking process that has been universally adopted. The wide appeal and acceptance of benchmarking has led to the emergence of various benchmarking methodologies. One  seminal book on benchmarking is Boxwell's Benchmarking for Competitive Advantage (1994). The first  book on benchmarking, written and published by Kaiser Associates, is a practical guide and offers a 7 step approach. Robert Camp (who wrote one of the earliest books on benchmarking in 1989) developed a 12-stage approach to benchmarking. The 12 stage methodology consists of: 1. Select subject 2. Define the process 3. Identify potential partners 4. Identify data sources 5. Collect data and select partners 6. Determine the gap 7. Establish process differences 8. Target future performance 9. Communicate 10. Adjust goal 11. Implement 12. Review and recalibrate The following is an example of a typical benchmarking methodology:
1. Identify problem areas - Because benchmarking can be applied to any business process or function, a range of research techniques may be required. They include: informal conversations with customers, employee