Continuous improvement v/s change management…are you serious?!?!?

Have you ever read one of those articles that just irks you?  I read one the other day that was trying to sell the idea that change management was somehow different and separable from continuous improvement.  It went on to claim that continuous improvement delivers small incremental changes. 

Let me be clear.  If your goal with continuous improvement is to deliver small incremental changes then that is what you will get.  Perhaps that is your goal.  Perhaps you are in a large conglomerate with no real competition and you’re seeking small bits of profit improvement (I have my doubts )…

Or, perhaps, you live in reality:

·         You have fierce competition from both big companies and startups.

·         You don’t have time for small improvements.

·         You need more profits NOW.

A well designed continuous improvement deployment delivers big improvements to profitability quickly.  Change management, or better change leadership, is definitely a part of that.  You shouldn’t push your business into a major transformation without leading the way, but make no mistake…it is part of continuous improvement.

The key problem with deployments that deliver small changes is with leveling.  They tend to think of continuous improvement as nothing more than Lean manufacturing or Six Sigma projects.  They fail to see beyond the micro level; thus, they deliver micro results.

A great continuous improvement deployment starts at a much higher level.

First…start with the strategic vision. 

This is known as the portfolio level.  Define what a major improvement means in your business.  You won’t get big results if you don’t set big goals.  This is a process that doesn’t need to take long, but you MUST know where you’re going if you intend to get there.

Next…break your strategic vision into programs.

Programs are akin to focus areas.  The saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time,” holds true here.  Programs can be set within functional areas or business lines.  If you’re lucky enough to have multiple lines of business then align your programs with them.  If not then you may find functional areas like sales, marketing, operations, accounting, etc. to be helpful.  The key is to ensure that all of your programs are aligned with your strategic vision.

Finally…run projects within your programs.

Now you have the framework to implement specific improvement projects.  By starting with strategic vision you can rest easy knowing that you are working on the areas that will drive big improvements to your business.  This alignment matters far more than which methodology you use.  There will be a right tool for the job…it may be Lean, it may be Six Sigma, it may even be PDCA.  Any improvement methodology can deliver great results IF you have the right framework in place.

Continuous improvement, when done right, delivers big results.  Change management is part of what makes that possible in the same way that a specific methodology does.  It both is and is not something distinct. 

Think of it as surgery.  You really only need a surgeon to perform an operation, but you’d be better off with an anesthesiologist as well.  In this example the surgeon is continuous improvement and the anesthesiologist is change management.  It is beneficial to have them both working together, but an anesthesiologist without a surgeon is rather pointless.

About the author:

I am a continuous improvement expert who helps business owners and executives improve their profits, free their time, and grow their business.  I combine continuous improvement, strategy, and analytics to deliver the most efficient and effective profit improvement possible.  I am a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt and PMP with over 14-years of experience driving profit improvement in service based businesses.

Are you ready to drive profit improvement in your business?  Let’s connect for a free 15-minute call to discuss your business.  You can reach me at to schedule time together.