6+ Continuous Improvement Tools to Help Drive Growth

In today’s world, businesses that can innovate and improve thrive. Ones clinging to old practices, however, eventually die out.

To stay ahead of your competition, your organization should focus on continuous improvement. Meaning, you should constantly re-evaluate your business processes, find improvements, and implement them.

Unless you’re a process improvement consultant, though, this won’t be the easiest of tasks. Over 50% of process improvement initiatives fail – and that happens for a reason. You need a lot of know-how to do this right. You need to know, for example, how to map processes, how to analyze the map, and so on.

If you have the right tools at hand, though, you’ll be dramatically increasing your chances.

To give you a head start, we’ve compiled a list of 6+ continuous improvement tools which are bound to significantly improve your odds.

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Continuous Improvement Tools List

Before we dive into the specific tools, let’s talk basics. If you already have a good basic understanding of process improvement as a methodology, jump ahead to the first tool, Drive. Otherwise, read on!

As we’ve already mentioned, continuous improvement means constantly improving your processes.

There are 2 parts to it. One is cultural – making your organization used to improvement on a general basis. Your employees should be supportive of any initiative, and should always be willing to take part in it.

To learn more about this part, check out our article on Kaizen, where we cover the cultural aspect of improvement more throughout.

The other part is more practical – the “hows” and “whys” of improving specific processes.

The continuous improvement tools we’ll cover in this article will focus on the later part.

  New to process improvement and want to learn more? Check out our complete guide to continuous improvement.

Process Mapping

Process Mapping is the methodology for visualizing business processes. It’s one of the most essential continuous improvement tools. Before you can improve a process, it’s helpful to have it down on paper. This way, you can actually see potential improvements.

There are several different types of process maps, depending on what you’re working on improving…

Process Flowchart – This is the most straightforward process map. You simply draw the business process as a flowchart, with each block being a single step. If you want to optimize the steps of the process, this map type is the go-to.

tallyfy content marketing workflow flowchart

Process flowchart example: content marketing

SIPOC Diagram – SIPOC stands for Supplier, Inputs, Processes, Outputs, and Customers. This is a more top-down process map, as it doesn’t go into the details of the process flow itself. Rather, you analyze all the external aspects of the process and improve on those.

sipoc diagram

Value Stream Map – As with the SIPOC diagram, this one’s top-down. The value stream map analyses the exact way you deliver value to the end-customer, including the process itself, duration of each step, KPIs, etc.

  Depending on your needs, there are several other types of diagrams you could use. Check out our complete guide to process mapping to learn more.


DRIVE is a continuous improvement tool that involves evaluating problems so you can break them down into simple, actionable steps. DRIVE stands for:

Root Cause Analysis

The Root Cause Analysis is, as evident from the name, a methodology aimed at discovering the root of any problem, issue or quality concern. It’s done in three stages…

  Need help implementing the root cause analysis? We’ve got you covered!

The 5 Whys

The 5 whys is a theory first developed by the Toyota Production Systems and now are an important part of Lean Manufacturing, Kaizen, and Six Sigma.

The idea behind it is simple – you continue asking “why” 5 times until you discover the root of the problem. This allows you to break through the layer of symptoms and get to the root of the problem.

People commonly want to address symptoms when problems arise. Then they don’t understand why these same problems tend to keep happening.

Using the 5 Whys may take longer initially, but it will save you the trouble of having the same problems crop up over and over again in your business.

The 5 Whys help you get to the root of any problem and understand the relationship between the different causes of this problem. It is one of the easiest tools you can use because it doesn’t require any data or statistical analysis.

To give you a better idea of how this works, here’s a simple example from Toyota’s website

Practical Example
  1. Why did the robot stop?
    • The circuit has overloaded, causing a fuse to blow.
  2. Why is the circuit overloaded?
    • There was insufficient lubrication on the bearings, so they locked up.
  3. Why was there insufficient lubrication on the bearings?
    • The oil pump on the robot is not circulating sufficient oil.
  4. Why is the pump not circulating sufficient oil?
    • The pump intake is clogged with metal shavings.
  5. Why is the intake clogged with metal shavings?
    • Because there is no filter on the pump.
  Want to learn more? We’ve got a dedicated guide for conducting the 5 Whys Analysis!

Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle

The PDSA cycle is a continuous improvement tool developed by Edwards Demming. It consists of four phases…


DMAIC is a bit similar to drive, and it stands for: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

Bonus: Process Management Software

There are a lot of problems with process improvement. One of the most notable ones is enforcement.

You spend countless hours improving a process, but your employees just won’t stick with the new variation.

In most cases, this is usually because of habit. The employees are used to doing the things one way, and then you expect them to completely change their behavior.

Some will stick, others will take a while. By using business process management software, though, you can completely get rid of this problem.

Instead of having to notify your employees of changes manually and keep track of whether they’re sticking to it or not, you can simply make a change to the process through software.

The employees will get a notification that the process will be carried out in a different way. Then, the system will automatically enforce the changes, telling the employees exactly what they need to do for each step.

  Want to get started with BPM software, but not sure which provider to pick? Learn how to tell them apart with our guide to some of the best BPM tools on the market.

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