Continuous improvement is a critical aspect of any healthy organization. The idea is that each of all aspects of the business are periodically reviewed to identify potential improvements opportunities. This ranges from the human aspects (processes, staffing structure, etc.) to technical aspects (website rendering time, operational costs, etc.)

Although these are very different facets of a business the same methodology can be applied to improve any of them.

  1. Measure. Before any taking any action you should establish your Key Performance Indexes (KPI’s). For instance if you want to improve website speed you should first have a measure of the current speed. I’d also advocate that this should be visible to your entire organization so they can also see how their actions impact the results.

  2. Set a goal. Formula 1 teams spend millions of dollars to shave 1/10th of a second over a lap, and if the goal is not clear or not defined you will find spending more than what you gaining. A goal should be S.M.A.R.T, for instance reduce operational costs by 10% on 2015.

  3. Define your hypothesis. Once you know where you going and how to measure peel of one more layer of the onion and create your hypothesis for why you’re not where you want to be. This typically involves using more fine grained metrics to identify potential tests to be conducted. Going back to the website example, one could use profiling tools to discover bottlenecks within the application.

  4. Pick a test, execute it and measure again. This cycle should be repeated until the goal is achieved and stopped there. A common pitfall is that once a goal is achieved to continue the experimentation phase, you should avoid this to minimize cost overrun and mitigate risks. In most cases the results follow a distribution similar to the Pareto Principle (a.k.a: 80-20 rule), where small changes produce big improvements and the effort beyond that increases “exponentially”.

  5. Repeat. Congratulations you have improved one aspect, now move to the next and repeat the process.

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