How to Build the Foundation of a Continuous Improvement Culture

Posted on by CATALYSIS

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In Management on the Mend, John Toussaint, MD explains that “principles are how a person, or a team organizes and externalizes values. In the way that values drive the culture, principles drive behaviors.” Toussaint goes on to say that principles can also help find points or common ground with others. Consequently, the Shingo Principles are at the foundation of a culture of continuous improvement and the pursuit of operational excellence.

Over the past several weeks, Catalysis team members have been sharing our thoughts about the Shingo Principles in hopes of helping you reflect on how these principles are demonstrated in your organization. 

Here is a summary of what we have shared:

Cultural Enablers

Two of the ten Shingo principles fall within the cultural enablers dimension of the Shingo Model. These are “Respect Every Individual” and “Lead with Humility.” These principles are foundational and critical to establishing all the other principles.

Continuous Improvement

This dimension of the Shingo Model is focused on continuous learning, continuous improvement, and innovation. Five of the principles fall within this dimension: “Flow & Pull Value,” “Assure Quality at the Source,” Focus on Process,” “Embrace Scientific Thinking,” and “Seek Perfection.”

Enterprise Alignment

Enterprise alignment is about creating clarity and connectedness within the organization. Two principles that are in this dimension are “Think Systemically” and “Create Constancy of Purpose.”


At the peak of the Shingo pyramid is the results dimension. This is about looking at key performance indicators from the perspective of the customer. The principle “Create Value for the Customer” stands alone in this dimension.

A continuous improvement journey is much more than the implementation of tools and alignment of work. Lean transformation requires cultural change. This change comes from defining principles and the behaviors that demonstrate these principles. Changing an organization’s culture takes time, effort and dedication.

Please share in the comments section below about how you apply these principles within your organization or what they mean to you.


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