The Continuous Improvement Culture Model

By Ron Pereira Published on February 4th, 2022

This article was written by John Knotts, a Senior Coach here at Gemba Academy

In September, we started our journey of Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement.  In that first article, I discussed the concept of my model I use to build this type of culture.  Today, we will explore the various facets of the model at a high level.  Over the next several months, we will dig deeper into each facet of the model.


The model centers on strategy, which is designed to build a continuous improvement culture in your organization.  The strategy involves an equal portion of measuring, improving, and changing work.  This model is further fueled by a level of employee commitment and innovation.

Let us better understand the other aspects of the model.


There are many quotes out there that highlight, if you cannot measure something, then you really cannot do anything with it – whether that “something” be understand it, analyze it, manage it, or improve it.  Basically, what this means is if you are not measuring something, anything you do with it, or to it is simply akin to tampering.

In any process improvement approach, the first steps must involve defining and measuring what you do.  In my Stop Jumping to Do presentation to leaders and practitioners, I emphasize Steven Covey’s first habit, Begin with the End in Mind.  If you do not know what to expect and then how to measure it, then you probably will not achieve what you expected in the first place.

Measure is about statistically understanding what it is that you do every day.  If you do not know how often you do something every day and how long it takes to do it every time, then you cannot effectively manage or improve it.  It really is that simple though – understand how often and how long and you have the foundation of a culture of continuous improvement.

Additionally, with data in hand, everyone needs to know what to look for and how to analyze the data over time.  They need to know when to react and when not to react.  This leads to improving the work.  If you are not measuring what you do, then you are not improving it.


Even the lowest-level employee should understand their process, know how to identify when something is wrong with it, and be armed with the basic tools to improve it.  Many times, organizations set up process improvement teams who operate as a “project shop,” prioritizing process improvement projects that leaders dream up without a shred of data.  You might think that an environment like this is one of continuous improvement, but in reality, you are probably just sub-optimizing processes and doing more busy work then real continuous improvement.

If you really want to build a culture that is focused on constantly improving what gets done, then you need to educate every employee on how to identify opportunities for improvements, do their own problem solving, and then implement improvements.  This tracks off the proverb, “Many hands make light work.”


Today, change management is the million-dollar management buzz word.  As a matter of fact, we have so much change management going on, we are finding ourselves unable to take on any more change.

Although if you are just now understanding how to manage change and understanding the human side of change management, then, in today’s business world, you are late to the game!  Companies today that want to build a culture of continuous improvement need to develop a fertile landscape of “Change Readiness.”

The first step for any organization; however, is to understand what change is and then how to manage it.  If you can master that part, then you can move to a state of readiness that allows your organization to continuously improve, which means continuously change.  The hardest part about improvement is an employee’s resistance to the inevitable change that improvement brings.


For years I studied Organizational Commitment.  I view three aspects important to this: the organization, leadership, and employees.  All have a very important role in commitment.

Today, we often call this Employee Engagement…still means the same thing.  Without engaged employees that are committed to the organization, you will never be successful at building the culture you desire.  So, understanding how to build an environment of engagement is critically important.

Gallup today provides its 12 Elements of Engagement Survey, which is a great industry benchmark and assessment approach for determining your organizational engagement.  However, this is just a measuring stick to identify gaps in your engagement.  I focus on four things, aligned to the Gallup survey, to focus effort and improve engagement:  organization, communication, development, and quality.


Lastly, innovation provides a way to kick start any continuous improvement effort.  Without innovation, improvements will be flat and methodical.  Although methodical is important, an emphasis on innovation helps employees think outside the box to significantly improve not only what they do, but what others do as well.

I have a specific formula for innovation that helps any organization better understand the factors that drive innovation and how to influence those factors.  Innovation essentially takes two forms: evolutionary or revolutionary.  Each is a sound investment of time for organizations if done smartly.


The beauty of a Venn diagram is in its interactions.  Where all five aspects interact with each other, that is where the strategy of continuous improvement lies.  But the three primary aspects of the model each have specific interactions:

Measure and Improve:  As stated above, if you are not measuring what you do, your improvements to what you do will be nothing but tampering.  Additionally, you should constantly be looking for ways to improve your measurement, analysis, and reporting activities to emphasize data-driven decisions and improvements.

Improve and Change:  Improvements made without understanding how change sticks, often results in changes that revert back to the same old process and problems.  Thus, change management in improvement is crucial.  Also, the improvement I discussed above, in regards to change management, is to evolve to an environment of change readiness.

Change and Measure:  Like improvements, establishing and implementing measurement systems require the work of employees to maintain and input data into the systems created – this is a change to the way they work today.  Thus, there must be an emphasis on managing that change and being ready for future improvements to the measuring of work.  Additionally, measuring how effective your change management and readiness is, is very important, as well as understanding things like change adoption and change saturation in the work center.

Over time, we will explore the Continuous Improvement Culture Model in depth, understanding each and every part of the model and its interactions.  Stay tuned to this Playbook to keep track of the progress.

As you can see, simply making a few changes in your work center will not build the culture we all desire.  To be effective, you need to build a strategy designed to systematically implement these five aspects of the culture and grow the effort over time.  Some organizations will adopt these changes faster than others, but by following this methodology, you can embrace a culture of continuous improvement.

Building a Culture of Continuous Improvement is a multi-issue article that will span the next several months.  Next month, let us explore educating leadership and professionals on continuous improvement.

  1. Hunter

    February 9, 2022 - 2:11 pm

    I like how your article/blog post is broken into different major improvement areas for the reader to focus on. By breaking the reading up this way, I felt hat it gave me a stronger understanding on what the key focal points are in each section. In the improve section, I like how it doesn’t focus in on any management roles but states that even the lowest level employee should know how to do their job and be able to recognize ways on in which to improve their area of work. If you are able to hire employees that can accomplish this goal, then they can explain their findings to management and then changes can be made to then eliminate unneeded waste. This seems like a strong way to cut out waste with not much added effort being involved.

Have something to say?

Leave your comment and let's talk!

Start your Lean & Six Sigma training today.