What is Continuous Quality Improvement? - Definition, Process & Methodologies

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  • 0:03 Further, Better, Faster
  • 0:40 Continuous Quality Improvement
  • 2:24 Plan, Do, Check, and Act
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Winston

Kimberly has a MBA in Logistics & Supply Chain Management

Continuous quality improvement (CQI) is a management philosophy used by organizations to better their processes. In this lesson, you will learn how continuous quality improvement is part of a group's culture, how it benefits an organization, and about one of the most popular methods of implementing CQI.

Further, Better, Faster

Throughout history, the human race has always attempted to improve the conditions under which individuals live. Look at how transportation has evolved: from horses and buggies, to trains, to automobiles - and when it seemed like we couldn't get places any faster, airplanes! Each new development in the world of transportation was born of a desire to go further, faster, and more comfortably.

This belief that most things can be improved is the basic idea behind continuous quality improvement. Even if there's nothing going wrong with a process as it is, continuous quality improvement looks for ways to improve the output or the product of the process.

Continuous Quality Improvement

So what exactly is continuous quality improvement? What does it do? And who does it affect? Continuous quality improvement, or CQI, is a management philosophy that organizations use to reduce waste, increase efficiency, and increase internal (meaning, employees) and external (meaning, customer) satisfaction. It is an ongoing process that evaluates how an organization works and ways to improve its processes.

The underlying philosophy of continuous quality improvement is that when problems arise it is generally a result of poor work design, unclear instructions, or the failure of leadership, not the people performing the processes. But for those organizations that utilize continuous quality improvement - as most do in some form or another nowadays - how they improve their products and processes permeates the culture of an organization; it's not just for the management team to worry about.

The philosophy behind CQI stresses the need for teamwork among all levels of employees and maintains that all employees are valuable members of the team. Assuming that employees are doing the day-to-day work that keeps the organization running, they are better equipped to suggest changes than perhaps the leaders are, who often are dealing with more bureaucratic matters. As such, employees are encouraged to analyze their work processes and make suggestions as to how to improve them for the good of the company.

Although a primary reason for cultivating a CQI work environment is to increase efficiency and, in many cases, profits, continuous quality improvement also encourages accountability by creating an environment in which all employees become personally invested in their organization. As all employees are invested in the process, everyone in the organization - as well as customers - are affected, hopefully, for the better!

Plan, Do, Check, and Act

One of the most popular manifestations of continuous quality improvement methodologies comes in the form of a method called Plan, Do, Check, and Act, or PDCA, which involves a company utilizing a 4-step process on a loop, over and over again, ever hoping to better its process.

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