How to Measure Continuous Improvement

Three colleagues working at a computer image by Vladimir Melnik from

If your improvement is continuous, it can be difficult to measure. However, by using meta-data you will be able to determine the rate of change. Measuring continuous improvement is important in long-term projects, and is a vital tool of project management. Knowing how to measure and quantify improvement can help to show real gains, and to highlight slowing improvements. A slowing improvement is often indication of an impending downturn, so being on top of the figures will help you to avoid or react to a potential major issue.

Find ways to quantify progress. If you are working towards a specific project, then you can measure the quantifiable aspects. For example, with a money saving project, plot a graph of "costs reduced since last week". This will allow you to measure your progress in terms of rate of change of improvement. With less easily quantifiable goals, such as customer happiness, use any feedback data to plot your change. Having an easily viewable set of data will make it far simpler to gauge.

Review your data in terms of initial goals. If your rate of improvement begins to slow, consider your initial rationale for a project. This will help you to remain focused, and to not lose sight of the bigger picture. A slowing rate of change still means that you are improving, and getting closer to your ultimate goal. Measuring it in terms of original intention is important to avoid short-term decision making.

Develop a series of criteria midway through the project which you can use to measure improvement. Although you must remain true to your original goal, if you have met with immediate success, you should demand higher standards. If you are aiming to reduce 10% of the total budget over six months, and have cut 4% off in four weeks, try and maintain a 1% per week rate. If you aim for this, then you will maintain high standards, although you are still aiming for your ultimate goal. This way you can use success to drive the project further.

Accept setbacks. During economic cycles, even successful projects experience periods of decline. Do not worry about these. If necessary, look at the examples of your competitors to see if your decline is atypical. Continuous improvement is difficult to maintain in the long-term, so for longer projects, attempt to gain some security against market shrinkage by factoring in contingency plans.