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Continuous improvement methods

Continuous improvement methods such as Toyota’s performance management system which aims to generate new ideas from frontline staff, through quality circles. These are usually premised on the idea that frontline staff have better knowledge about potential innovations than managers or outsiders. Edward W. Deming, the pioneer of Toyota methods (also known as statistical production control or statistical process control), called for a system of management that was based on collaboration between management and staff and on what he called, a system of ‘profound knowledge’. This system consists of four inter-related aspects: appreciation of a system (understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers of goods and services); knowledge of variation (the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements); a theory of knowledge (the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known); and knowledge of psychology (concepts of human nature). Deming’s Fourteen Points also provides a blueprint for organisational transformation. These points include: create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and stay in business, and to provide jobs; cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place; improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.

(See Edward W Deming, ‘Out of the Crisis: quality, productivity and competitive position’, Cambridge: MIT Press, 1986. )