What is Continuous Improvement?

By Karen Shakman, Jessica Bailey and Nicole Breslow

Continuous improvement is a process that can support educational stakeholders in implementing and studying small changes with the goal of making lasting improvement.

Image result for improvement growth trees


Continuous improvement has been around for a long time, in industry and health care, before becoming popular in educational settings. A great many successful industry and health care examples are available, including increases in productivity at the assembly line or the reduction in mortality rates in large hospitals.

The framework for continuous improvement that guides all the steps of the process is known as the “model for improvement.” The model for improvement consists of three essential questions:

• What problem are we trying to solve? For an organization to improve, its leaders and other key participants must set clear and firm intentions. These intentions are derived by clearly articulating a problem or issue that requires attention.

• What changes might we introduce and why? Continuous improvement requires key participants to develop, implement, test, and further develop changes to tools, processes or practices.

• How will we know that a change is actually an improvement? An essential part of continuous improvement is to clearly examine whether the change has, in fact, addressed the identified problem and made some meaningful improvement. Clear and specific measures that capture both the processes and the outcomes are critical to the continuous improvement process.


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