Dos and Don’ts for Fostering a Continuous Improvement Culture

Posted on by CATALYSIS

Continuous improvement is the second dimension in the Shingo Model. It includes five of the ten principles of organizational excellence: assure quality at the source, improve flow and pull, seek perfection, embrace scientific thinking, and focus on process. Each of these principles are equally important to fostering a continuous improvement culture within an organization.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help keep the focus on these principles.


  • Define quality – To assure quality at the source you must first define what quality means. Once quality is defined, remember to share often with everyone in the organization and make sure this definition is considered in every process.
  • Define processes using standard work – In order to focus on process, it is key to define processes using standard work. This will give you a place to start when a defect occurs and will help keep you focused on the process rather than the people performing the process.
  • Do follow standard work consistently – Everyone should be trained to the standard so they can follow it consistently. If the standard work is not being followed each time a process is performed it will be very difficult to understand why a defect occurred.
  • Do take time to understand capacity – Find a way to understand the capacity of your team members. Team members need time to work on improvement work and solve problems. It is not respectful (or helpful to the improvement process) if improvement work is just added on top of other work without consideration of capacity.
  • Do remember to celebrate failures – Celebrate failures as much as you celebrate success. Failure is where real learning happens. If you neglect to celebrate the failure you may inadvertently set a precedent that it is not okay to fail, which could end up making team members afraid to try an experiment.


  • Don’t pass on a defect – Sometimes the pressure to meet a target or a deadline can make people feel like they are unable to call out a defect when they see one. Make sure that it is clear to all that they should never pass on a defect.
  • Don’t get impatient – The problem-solving process takes time. It can take multiple iterations of PDSA to get to the right countermeasures. Remember to be patient with problem-solving, especially if those working to solve the problem are new to the process of scientific thinking.
  • Don’t neglect to go to gemba – Going to gemba is one of the most essential behaviors to fostering a continuous improvement culture. A problem cannot be solved without observing the process and understanding what goes into the process. Encourage everyone to go to gemba.
  • Don’t let standard work get stale – Standard work must be maintained and updated on a regular basis. It is a helpful to observe standard work being performed on a routine cadence to ensure that it is still producing the intended results.
  • Don’t forget to think big – In a continuous improvement culture it is necessary to push yourself to grow beyond a state which you can currently imagine. Remember to encourage team members to think “outside the box” as you continue to seek perfection.

A continuous improvement culture is about constantly looking for opportunities to get better. Keep the focus on behaviors that support the five principles in the continuous improvement dimension: assure quality at the source, improve flow and pull, seek perfection, embrace scientific thinking, and focus on process.

Please share with us what you have seen help foster a continuous improvement culture in the comments section below.

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