Every organization, large or small, is interested in continuous improvement and constantly getting better to meet both internal and external needs. There are some standard, very simple continuous improvement processes that are used by companies. The Plan, Do, Study, Act process is commonly used and is easy to understand and implement.


Planning is an important part of continuous improvement. Companies need to consider what they will do to meet certain business objectives. For instance, if the company is interested in expanding into new service areas it must identify the areas it intends to move into and then plan for how this expansion will be accomplished. Planning is a critical first step in the continuous improvement process.


Once a plan has been developed, it is time to put that plan in place, or implement it. Well-developed plans will contain strategies, tactics and action plans that clearly outline for the organization and its members what is to be done, when and by whom. Actually "doing" involves putting into place a series of activities or actions.


Once a plan has been implemented, the next step is to study the impact of that implementation. For instance, suppose a company plans and implements a new safety program designed to reduce the number of on-site accidents in a manufacturing plant. As the plan is implemented, the company studies the impact of the plan on safety levels. If safety levels improve, the company will assume that the plan had a positive impact. If safety levels remain the same or decline, the company will assume that the plan did not have a positive impact.


Based on the results after plan implementation, companies then take action. If the results have been favorable, the company will continue to implement the plan and perhaps spread the plan to other parts of the organization. If the plan has not been a success, the company will consider what it has learned and begin the planning cycle--plan, do, study, act--again, as part of its continuous improvement efforts.