Continuous Improvement Tools and Definitions, and When to Use

Adonis Partners wants to take the guesswork out of understanding what the commonly used terms, tools and definitions are around Continuous Improvement. Here is a glossary of these search terms and tools used in continuous improvement processes. 

Continuous Improvement The never-ending process of eliminating waste and reducing variation.
Operational Excellence Operational excellence is a methodology of striving for efficacy throughout an organization’s processes.
Business Process Excellence Process Excellence (PEX). Process Excellence is concerned with making processes more efficient and effective through design and testing. The main goal is to deliver consistent, positive outcomes with minimal variation (which Six Sigma tackles) and waste (which Lean deals with).
Change Management Change management is a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support, and help individuals, teams, and organizations in making organizational change.
PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) PDCA is an iterative design and management method used in business for the control and continual improvement of processes and products. It is also known as the Shewhart cycle, or the control circle/cycle.
Lean Removal of non-value added activities resulting in improved delivery of product or service at the most efficient return on investment.
Six Sigma A set of management techniques intended to improve business processes by greatly reducing the probability that an error or defect will occur.
Lean Six Sigma Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement approach that uses a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing operational waste and reducing process variation. It combines Lean Management and Six Sigma to increase the velocity of value creation in business processes.
Control Chart Control charts are a graph used in production control to determine whether quality and manufacturing processes are being controlled under stable conditions.
DMAIC The basic model for Six Sigma. Involves: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve & Control
DOE Design Of Experiment – Statistically planned experimental exploration and/or confirmation of critical inputs from the FMEA, multi-vari study or process map.
Gemba Walks Gemba (aka Walkie Lookie) walks denote the action of going to see the actual process, understand the work, ask questions, and learn. It is also known as one fundamental part of the Lean management philosophy. Taiichi Ohno, an executive at Toyota, led the development of the concept of the Gemba Walk.
Day in Life Of “Day in the life” (or, “a day in the life,” or “day in the life of”) is a genre of storytelling in which the events occurring in the life of the subject or subjects are those occurring in a single day of their life.
Just-in-Time A concept of having just the right amount of inventory needed exactly when it is needed to reduce costs associated with holding inventory. JIT is a system for producing and delivering the right items at the right time, in the right amounts.
Kaizen The philosophy of continuous improvement.
Kaizen Event A focused, structured, short-duration problem-solving activity used to improve processes throughout the organization. Generally ranges from 1 to 5 days.
Lead-Time The total time a customer must wait to receive a product after placing an order.
Metrics Means of showing business process performance. Can measure inputs (indicators) or outputs. Should include goals and metric ownership.
Muda Japanese for waste. Any activity that adds to cost without adding to the value of the product. The seven original wastes. See the first seven of the 8 Wastes.
Mura Japanese for inconsistency or unevenness. Variations in process quality, cost and delivery.
Muri Japanese for unreasonableness. Demand exceeds capacity.
Process Capability Performance of the process when it is operating in control.

Quality Function Deployment – a method of evaluating a process and its impact on the customer’s expectation.

A visual decision-making procedure for multi-skilled project teams that develops a common understanding of the voice of the customer and a consensus on the final engineering specifications of the product that has the commitment of the entire team. QFD integrates the perspectives of team members from different disciplines, ensures that their efforts are focused on resolving key trade-offs in a consistent manner against measurable performance targets for the product, and deploys these decisions through successive levels of detail.

Quality Management The systems, organizations, and tools which make it possible to plan, manufacture, and deliver a quality product or service. This does not imply inspection or even traditional quality control. Rather, it builds quality into the entire process of bringing goods and services to the customer.
SMART Goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Bound – used to define process improvement projects.

Documenting and using the best-known method of completing a task or activity. Standardization leads to reduced variation leading to more consistent performance with respect to quality, cost and delivery.

The system of documenting and updating procedures to make sure everyone knows clearly and simply what is expected of them.

Total Productive Maintenance A series of actions designed to ensure that every machine or piece of equipment in a production process is always able to perform its required task(s) without interrupting the continuous flow of the production process. TPM attempts to maximize equipment effectiveness (and availability) throughout the entire life of the equipment.
Toyota Production System Manufacturing philosophy that shortens the time between customer order and shipment by eliminating waste

Continuous Improvement…

is the core principle at Adonis: we enable our clients to both achieve and sustain optimal performance by cultivating a working relationship between the people, processes, and technology at work.


  • Purpose
  • Employee engagement
  • Talent development


  • Lean Six Sigma techniques
  • Strategic planning
  • Waste elimination


  • Data-driven approach
  • Cutting-edge technology
  • Meaningful metrics

The Result

The result is holistic operational agility that generates sustainable value.


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Adonis Partners
18 King Street East, Suite 1400
Toronto, Ontario
M5C 1C4