The debate over whether to use continuous improvement or continual improvement is not a new one, but I thought I would weigh in, seeing as I do write about this subject, and have debated it vigorously many times!
So, a straight-up definition of 'continuous' from The Free Dictionary is that it is "uninterrupted in time, sequence, substance, or extent", or "unceasing". The Free Dictionary states that for 'continual', it is " usually used to describe something that happens often over a period of time".
Personally, I think you can see straight away from the definition why 'continual' should be used rather than 'continuous' when it comes to quality improvement - as much as we may like to improve, it is not really "unceasing" (at least I hope that's not your goal - otherwise, you might incite a staff revolt).
But if we get a little bit more cerebral about it, there are some very good reasons for using continual instead of continuous. For me it comes down to this:
Your improvements shouldn't be uninterrupted, because you cannot know if you've actually improved anything unless you stand back and check that your action has had its intended result. Improvement actions take time to embed and show results. If you are too quickly moving on to the next thing, or, worst case scenario, getting stuck in an endless loop of reviewing just one process, you are probably not improving much at all - or you'll never be able to properly evidence it, in any case.
By stating that your organisation has a culture or process of continual, rather than continuous, improvement, you can make a policy statement such as:
Our organisation has embedded a continual improvement framework across all of our operations and processes. Our improvements:
1. are considered as part of our quality management system, and as such are planned as much as possible, using consultative and collaborative techniques
2. can be reactive, or the result of feedback or a complaint from internal or external stakeholders 3. will always have the intended result documented
4. will always be evaluated to ensure that the intended result has been achieved.
Are you a fan of one or the other? Feel free to give your argument in the comments.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!