Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement (CI) is an open-ended effort to refine services and the processes which deliver them.

There are four common methodologies for continuous improvement: Lean, Statistical Process Control (SPC, sometimes conflated with Six Sigma), Total Quality Management (TQM) and Kaizen. These methodologies should be seen as differing mainly in emphasis and application, with a great deal of overlap between them. All four methodologies rely on five critical foundations at the level of the values and practices internalized by staff:

Continuous improvement initiatives work best when senior management actively supports them, and there is a cross-functional and top-to-bottom acceptance of the need for change within the organization. CI consultancy and training should ideally be linked, and entirely bespoke to one organization and its very particular needs.

We recognize from our extensive experience of continuous improvement that these ideal conditions rarely apply. Constraints of time, cost and organizational culture can frequently impinge upon the CI projects, and accordingly we have established a standardized 'menu' of those courses for which demand is highest. These can be used on a stand-alone basis, extensively modified to particular requirements, and/or incorporated within broader change projects.

Variants Key
Universal Universal
Financial Services Financial Services
Central Government Central Government
Local Government Local Government
Healthcare Healthcare
Higher Education Higher Education
Third Selector Third Sector


Introduction to Continuous Improvement

Variants: UniversalCentral GovernmentLocal Government Third Selector Higher Education Healthcare (1 day - 9 hours)

This intensive one day course is designed to equip delegates from private sector service organizations with an overview of the main methodologies, and how they can be implemented in practice. We will cover:

  • Statistical Process Control (SPC): the essence of SPC - data-driven decision making - is explored through the application of run chart methods to some real service process data.
  • Lean: the essential aspects of process mapping and elimination of process wastes are explored through case studies and the practical 'Lean factory' exercise.
  • Total Quality Management: the links between strategic and operational management are explored through a case study which illustrates Deming's Fourteen Points of TQM.
  • Kaizen: a range of continuous improvement tools and practices underpinned by systems thinking and a cultural commitment to increasing quality and minimizing 'defects'.

The main features which unite continuous improvement methodologies (systems thinking, cyclical cause-and-effect, customer defined quality, performance measurement and data-driven decision making) are therefore introduced in context. Delegates are empowered to view the methodologies holistically, choosing the tools and techniques which best suit the operations management issues they face at work.

A Third Sector variant of this course is available, which stresses the relationship between quality, continuous improvement and accountability; activity-based costing; social impact and stakeholder management.

[For cohorts of C-suite managers and company directors, the Kaizen part of this course can be replaced with a consideration of Hoshin Kanri]

To find out more about this course and its sector variants, please contact us.

Leading Lean Service Transformation

Variants: UniversalFinancial Services (3 days)

This course makes inductive, practical use of context-specific case studies of successful Lean projects in the private sector. Following a practical introduction to Lean methodology, the course will provide delegates with an understanding of the challenges to the successful implementation of Lean in the private sector service environment, and how these can be overcome:

  • Defining service quality from the customer perspective, making best use of feedback mechanisms.
  • Eliminating waste from processes.
  • Consolidating process improvement.
  • Assessing and reporting the impact of Lean projects to a range of stakeholders.
  • Sustaining enthusiasm for Lean in the face of competing priorities.

The course is aimed at senior managers who will 'own' Lean projects within their organizations, or for staff at any level in private sector organizations who have the ability to make and implement strategic decisions. If your organization needs to train its process owners and operations managers in Lean practice, we would be very happy to discuss this further: please contact us.

Lean Service Transformation

Variants: UniversalFinancial Services (2 days)

This course uses real-life examples of higher-volume, customer-oriented processes from the private sector, primarily financial services organizations. It is designed to equip staff in larger, service-oriented companies with the skills they need to carry out Lean service transformation projects in their own departments and work teams:

  • Value Stream Mapping.
  • Reducing process wastes.
  • Measuring and reporting process performance.
  • Change management perspectives on Lean projects.
  • Aligning Lean projects with current and future operational strategies .
  • Kaizen, '5S' and poka-yoke tools for increasing everyday effectiveness.

The course is aimed at managers who will conduct Lean projects within the higher-volume, lower-variety processes commonly found in environments such as retail banking and insurance services. If your organization could benefit from Lean, we would be very happy to discuss this further: please contact us.

Kaizen Toolkit

Variants: UniversalCentral GovernmentLocal Government Third Selector Higher Education Healthcare (1 ½ days)

Kaizen (kai, change + zen, wholesome) is a set of practices and a cultural outlook which underpin continuous improvement in organizations which have adopted, or which are adopting, a more focussed approach to process design. This course is ideal for process owners and operations managers. We will cover:

  • Root cause analysis.
  • Aligning practices with policy and regulatory requirements, avoiding the necessity for multiple sign-offs and duplication.
  • Monitoring workflow using swimlane boards and visual indicators (kanban).
  • 5S practices to increase efficiency of the physical work space.
  • Poka-yoke failsafes to improve accuracy and reduce re-work rates.
  • Establishing and running quality circles.

If your organization or department could benefit from Kaizen training, we would be interested to discuss this further - please contact us.

Introduction to Hoshin Kanri

Variants: UniversalCentral GovernmentLocal Government Third Selector (2 days)

Hoshin kanri is a powerful methodology for strategic alignment within organizations. It is compatible with Balanced Scorecard™, tableau de bord and other 'dashboard' methods. However, hoshin concentrates on the way in which operational performance measures are decided upon and how they relate to organizational strategy, rather than reactive management in response to dashboard data. The course covers:

  • Operationalizing strategic goals using appropriate performance indicators.
  • Identifying supporting strategies.
  • Setting appropriate milestones for each hoshin project.
  • Drawing up the four types of hoshin table: reviews, strategy implementation, business fundamentals and annual planning.
  • Conducting hoshin reviews.

Many blue-chip companies use hoshin kanri (Bank of America, Bridgestone, Nissan, Hewlett Packard and SEGA are just a few examples). This course is ideal for higher level managers in functional departments, as well as VPs/C-suite personnel. Please contact us for further information.

Introduction to Statistical Process Control

Variants: UniversalFinancial ServicesLocal Government Healthcare (1 day - 9 hours)

This intensive one-day course is designed to introduce operations managers and process owners to the seven classic statistical process control techniques. No prior knowledge or experience of statistics, process control or even high-school mathematics is assumed: each technique is taught inductively using real process data, and user-friendly Excel tools are provided. There is no requirement for delegates to use or understand statistical software such as Minitab, R or SPSS. We will cover:

  • Ishikawa ('fishbone') diagrams.
  • Check sheet methods for process owners and supervisors.
  • Run charts.
  • Control charts (X-bar and R).
  • Histograms.
  • Pareto charts.
  • Scatter plots.

These tools are invaluable for identifying process problems as early as possible and taking steps to bring processes back into control. They are highly applicable in high-volume service environments, especially where regulation or policy imposes strict quality and time constraints. If these circumstances apply to you and you would like to know more about SPC methods and training, please contact us.

Introduction to Function Analysis

Variants: UniversalFinancial ServicesLocal Government Healthcare (1 day)

This short course will introduce operations managers and process owners to Function Analysis, which is an exceptionally powerful management tool used in the early stages of process design - whether these processes are intended to run many times (in ongoing operations), or just once (in projects). Function Analysis uses visual charts to analyse the how/why nexus in each stage of a work process - 'how is the function performed' vs. 'why is the next function performed'.

As a means of understanding the relationship between operational methods (means) and operational strategy (ends), Function Analysis is hard to beat. This course is especially relevant to managers who plan and implement projects; those who are expanding operations into new areas, designing new processes; and operational managers in recently merged or acquired organizations who need to align their operations with those of a corporate parent. If this sounds like you, or managers in your organization, please contact us to find out more about Function Analysis.

Measuring Process Performance

Variants: UniversalFinancial ServicesCentral GovernmentLocal Government Third Selector Healthcare (2 days)

In many organizations, whether public, private or Third Sector oriented, operational performance is all too often measured and communicated in purely financial terms. This is understandable, but it obscures the relationship between quality, efficiency and cost; and neglects the opportunities for efficiency which arise from a more customer-oriented approach to defining quality and measuring process performance. In this course, we will cover:

  • The 'gap model' of customer-defined quality .
  • RATER measures of service performance; designing and using SERVQUAL and SERVPERF-type measures of customer quality perceptions.
  • The relationship between the classic operations performance dimensions of quality, speed, dependability, flexibility and cost .
  • Aligning performance measures with operational strategy .

This course is ideal for operations managers in functional departments, process owners, and senior managers who have acquired new responsibility for quality and performance outcomes. The course is equally appropriate to staff whose departments serve internal customers (support services like HRM, ICT etc) and those whose departments serve the ultimate, external customer or service user. Sounds interesting? By all means contact us to find out more.

Operations Management for Functional Specialists

Variants: Universal (1 day - 9 hours)

Operations management is the Cinderella of managerial professions. Functional specialists such as management accountants, lawyers, marketers and human resource managers all have clearly articulated professional standards and methodologies, which are often associated with desirable professional qualifications such as CIMA or CIPD. The management of operations, however, has no such clearly defined professional status - there is a common perception that operations are simply equivalent to the service delivered to the end customer, or that operations are what an organization 'just does'.

This is a very damaging pre-conception and one which causes work organizations to lose a lot of money. For larger companies operating in mature markets, controlling operating costs is one of the best routes to improved margins and profitability, once new routes to market have been exhausted and commitment to existing technologies and practices makes innovation hard to achieve.

This intensive one-day course is analogous to a 'finance for non-financial managers' course, but works the other way round - it is designed to give functional specialists an insight into the methodologies and practices associated with successful operations management:

  • The relationship between the classic operations performance dimensions of quality, speed, dependability, flexibility and cost.
  • Describing and measuring the scope of the supply chain, the operation and the process (the three levels of operations management practice).
  • Using methods such as activity-based costing and direct cash accounting to help unite financial and operational decision-making.
  • A very practical and case-study oriented examination of operations disciplines such as process design, continuous improvement, the 'strategy pyramid' and job design.

For further information, please contact us.