What is continuous and continual improvement?

Curious about the difference between continuous and continual improvement? Discover how these concepts can transform your organisation's quality management practices. Learn about the steps for continual improvement, the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, and how Citation Certification can help you achieve total quality management. Keep reading to find out more!
What is continuous and continual improvement?

Continuous improvement and continual improvement are terms often used interchangeably, both aiming for incremental enhancement over time. According to ISO 9001, continual improvement refers to an organisation’s ongoing efforts to enhance its products and services. This process involves planning, monitoring, implementing, and addressing issues as they arise.

In a continual improvement approach, phases of progress are followed by evaluations to assess success before making further improvements. Continuous improvement, on the other hand, is an uninterrupted effort to refine processes, products, and services.


Quality Management continual improvement steps

The basic steps for continual improvement in quality management include:

  1. Ensure every department and individual focuses on continual improvement across products, services, systems, and processes.
  2. Apply the principles of continual improvement and breakthrough improvement at all organisational levels.
  3. Conduct assessments to identify areas needing improvement, adhering to continual improvement criteria.
  4. Regularly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of all systems within the organisation.
  5. Promote proactive approaches to prevent minor issues from becoming major problems.
  6. Train all employees on continuous improvement tools and strategies like the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, process re-engineering, problem-solving, and process innovation.
  7. Set objectives and measures to track and guide improvement efforts through monitoring and reporting.
  8. Recognise and acknowledge improvements to motivate employees to pursue further progress.



The Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, developed by Walter Shewhart and popularised by Edward Deming, aims to implement changes leading to continuous improvement through repetition.

  • Plan: Develop a tailored plan for quality improvement.
  • Do: Execute the plan, making changes to systems, procedures, and processes.
  • Check: Monitor the results of the improvements to quickly assess success.
  • Act: If successful, adopt the changes permanently. If not, return to the “Do” stage and try again.

How Citation Certification can help

Need help adopting continuous improvement in your organisation? At Citation Certification, we offer training services to help you continuously improve your systems, processes, and products. Contact us today to learn how we can assist you in finding opportunities for improvement to achieve total quality management.

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