Simply defined, continuous improvement (CI for short) is an ongoing effort to improve products, services and processes. This effort can seek incremental improvement over time or breakthrough improvements, or a combination of these.
Some practitioners highlight the difference between continuous improvement (continuous without interruption) and continual improvement (continuing over a long period but with intervals of interruption). Some argue that continual improvement is broader in scope and preferable in application.
It’s important to highlight that although continuous improvement was first conceived to help with manufacturing processes, it can applied equally to products and services. The one big difference is that in the world of services, there is often no “standard product” – the particular service solution is customized to solve each customer’s specific requirement or problem. The implications of this are discussed further in Section 2.4.