The Importance of Continual Improvement


First Principles Consulting is a specialist firm, assisting companies improve their management cycle. What is the management cycle? In our world, this simply refers to the continuous loop of Plan-Do-Check-Act. Also called the Deming Cycle, as the author Dr. W. Edwards Deming published it in the Fifties, it encapsulates a simple process which one would think of as common sense. Well, it may be common sense, but from years of frontline consulting experience, we at FPC can tell you it certainly is not common practice.

Herein lies your opportunity. If you can determine in which part of the cycle you experience your biggest gaps, you can focus your improvement efforts there first. Let us explain…


This is where it all starts. No-one would seriously go into business without a solid business plan. But once launched, we do not always follow through as well as we should. What we are looking for here are solid, tangible plans for various time horizons, which should include numerical targets.


This step simply involves executing the task. In most organizations, work is done through people. Therefore it is important that we assign work as concisely as possible. Task assignments should always state a clear context, purpose, quality, quantity and some expectation of time – how long should this take or how many should be completed over an hour or day?


Having established the solid plans mentioned above allows us to check if we succeeded or not; in our experience, this is one of the steps so often done poorly, or not done at all. It is our observation that most people are happy to plan, execute the plans but rarely take the time to check whether or not they achieved their goals. You see, this step sets us up for the last one in the cycle…


In Deming’s doctrine, acting is not the same as doing. ‘Act’ refers to acting on the variance identified in the ‘Check’ step. Deming later changed Check to Study. You can see where he wanted this to go. It is important for us to understand the causes of the variance. And being the last in four sequential steps, you already know this step is the least likely to be followed through.


What should you do?

There are various approaches, methodologies and tools available to you. However, over the years of helping many organizations mature to become more effective and efficient, we have found that the one tool that can make the biggest difference most quickly is a structured log of agreed actions.

Why not try our purpose-developed ActionLog for a while?

Click here for your free trial!