The term ‘continuous improvement’ gets used a lot in business. In some organisations it results in a lot of ‘busy’ work that doesn’t achieve much. In others it is a deeply embedded discipline that relentlessly drives a business forward.

Continuous improvement is about staying ahead of your competitors by constantly looking for those incremental, seemingly small, improvements that continuously add value. One of the better methods to extract value from continuous improvement activities is the strategy of STOP, START, CONTINUE which can be used at any level of an organisation and applied to high level strategic matters all the way down to how a single individual does their job.

The starting point is to have crystal clear objectives – i.e. knowing what are you trying to achieve and by when. Implicit in its success is an understanding that everything is up for challenge – actions, behaviours, plans – everything! Without a willingness to challenge everything it won’t be effective.

Here’s simply how it works:

STOP doing anything that doesn’t move you towards your stated objectives. Cut old processes, uncommercial deals, ‘dead wood’ in your team etc. – these are the things that are holding you back from a brighter future. Stop them even if it is (initially) painful to do so.

START activities that will expedite you achieving your stated objectives. Pivot if you need to. Introduce new initiatives that the market wants and will pay for. Upgrade your team with more people that give a damn. Start treating your customers and suppliers with more care and love. Hit every deadline and budget given to you. Run faster and harder but do it without the baggage you cut away in the STOP phase.

CONTINUE the things you are doing well. The good stuff. The stuff that is ‘bang on’ in terms of meeting your business and cultural objectives. And if you can do more of it, do it.

The ethos of STOP START CONTINUE provides a method to regularly recalibrate a business, a job or a project and keep it lined up against its set objectives. This helps to rid an organisation of sacred cows and the clutter and noise that gets in the way of progress. If an activity or behaviour doesn’t help to move the business forward then it has to go. If it does, it continues. If new things are needed to enhance progress they are started.

Perhaps the key is to ‘do less better’ – that is, being laser focused on doing one thing (or a couple of things) really well and discarding everything else. What do you think?