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Continual Improvement

By Bob Lewis-Basson

As a small business owner wanting to grow your business you will be looking at ways to improve your business to generate more profit and cash, to free-up working capital, and to make more effective use of your own time.

While there may be one-shot improvements you can make, such as outsourcing an overhead function to make a net saving, there will always be those issues where the benefits are obvious but the means of achieving them are not so clear.

Continual Improvement is not just for manufacturing quality

Adopting a systematic, continual improvement approach to those issues could be the answer.

It used to be thought that continual improvement was about manufacturing quality, but these days, quality is seen as something that should be embedded right across a business.

And likewise the continual improvement methodology can be applied to issues, right across a business, in every function, for example:

  • improving the enquiry rate from an existing marketing budget
  • increasing the average sale value by designing and up-selling additional features and products
  • improving cash flow though better credit control and debtors management
  • reducing manufacturing costs with improved delivery times and no loss of quality
  • reducing inventory cost and obsolescence
  • achieving an overhead cost saving by reducing headcount
  • releasing management time by putting in better delegation, coaching and review processes

And lots more…

The PDCA Continual Improvement Cycle

The PDCA or Deming Cycle

First you set down the objective you want to achieve.

Then you embark on the 4-step PDCA cycle  Plan – make a plan for achieving it; Do – carry out the plan; Check -gather and quantify the results; and Act – decide what to do next.

Having decided what to do next, you then make a new plan and repeat the cycle.

Obvious, really – when you sit down to work out how to deal with your issues, your thinking almost certainly follows those steps anyway.

Set a timetable and review progress

But the key to making this work is to get the people designated to resolve the issue – you, a member of your staff, or a small project team you have put together – to set a timetable for each cycle and stick to it.

And if you have the resources to run a number of improvement projects in parallel, you can review them at your management meetings, monthly or quarterly.

The results will come, slowly but surely, and year on year your company’s performance will get better and better!

We can help

Posted by Peter Johnson, Business Advisor with SGBA. If you would like a free initial consultation to discuss your business, including how to embed Continual Improvement in your company’s culture, call Peter on 07714 093406 or email him at

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