Though many similarities exist between Continuous Improvement (CI) and Quality Improvement (QI), the author asserts that the following is a discussion of a number of distinct differences between CI and QI:
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To start with, the author established that the first difference arises from their definitions. This is the case because CI is defined as a set of initiatives or a sustained culture geared towards attainment improvement in all processes and systems of an organization (Mayle, 2006).
On the other hand, Business Dictionary (2011) defined QI as the systematic approach that seeks to eliminate or reduce losses, wastes, and re-works in production processes. From the above definitions, it clearly emerges that CI is a sub-set of QI that targets to enhance improvement in all stages. To explore this point, the author noted that before the initiation of the CI improvement efforts, formal approaches on the analysis of an organization or product performance need to be carried out (under QI).
Tellingly, there is a universal agreement that CI contains 4 key phases within its life cycle (introductory, definition, declination, and re-launch phases). The fourth phase is considered optional for organizational implementation. On the other hand, QI has been structured under the following 5 broad phases, namely: focus, analyze, develop, execute, and evaluate. These have been derived from its key model, FADE, and all phases are recommended for implementation by organizations.
To add, the author established that different models exist to justify how or ways in which QI and CI can be implemented. For instance, the key model upon which QI is built is called the FADE, which stands for Focus, Analyze, Develop, Execute, and Evaluate. Other than FADE, the following additional models exist to define strategies of implementing QI: PDSA, which stands for Plan, Do, Study, and Act, DMADV which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and then Verify. The above 3 models are not applicable to CI. In the same manner, the following models are only applicable to CI: Malcolm Baldridge Award Model, Balanced Scorecard, and ISO 9000: 2000
Moreover, CI requires that all stakeholders of an organization should take active roles in discussing its issues for improvement. As such, managers cannot just demonstrate their authority in their sessions by creating and holding focus meetings with the aim of deriving single-handed decisions (Marin-Garcia et al., 2008). On the other note, in QI sessions, it is not a must for all stakeholders to take part. The top management can appoint taskforces, which will, in turn, be tasked with implementing improvement by deriving findings from analyzed data.
Closely related to the above, the author noted that the insistence that top management should be present in CI brainstorming sessions is likely to deprive the junior employees of their freedom, especially when it comes to sharing of ideas or knowledge on topics of discussion. This is so because a number of them may suffer from “inferiority complexes.” However, this may not be the case in QI sessions since taskforces or steering teams can appoint their chairpersons and go ahead to brainstorm on the issues at hand.
Strikingly, the successfulness of any CI initiative rests on the premise that the organizational culture should be ready to advance themes of transparency, openness, trust, and honesty between the lower and higher levels of management (Marin-Garcia et al., 2011). A deviation from this culture will automatically lead to its failure. Contrasting this, Baker (2009) established that focus groups or committee members could freely interact under the guidance of a moderator in QI brainstorming sessions.
To end, the author also derived that in most of its phases, QI may make use of experimental studies to derive its findings. This is so because this process is biased towards achieving improvement by reducing the losses in the production stages of organizations. Furthermore, the use of standard analysis data applications can substitute experimental studies. On the other hand, CI is structured as a quantitative approach that relies on the findings derived from empirical studies. Holding discussion forums to discuss the emerging questions or themes relating to specific study topics can be examples of empirical studies that can be implemented to assist in achieving the overall CI visions.
Barker, A.M. (2009). Advanced practice nursing: Essential knowledge for the profession publisher. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Business Dictionary (2011). Quality improvement. Web.
Marin-Garcia, J. A. et al. (2008). Longitudinal study of the results of continuous improvement in an industrial company. Team Performance Management, 14(1/2), 56-69.
Marin-Garcia, J.A. et al. (2011). The implementation of a continuous improvement project at a Spanish marketing company: A case study. International Journal of Management. Web.
Mayle, David. (2006). Managing innovation and change. 3rd edn. London: SAGE Publishers.