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10 Ways To Stifle Continuous Improvement

You have just noticed that people all around you are making changes to things, they keep tweaking and tweaking them to get "improvement" but they are moving away from what's written down on the paperwork, yes if you standardised the bolts to one size it would be quicker but that's not the point you have rules!

We understand, the last thing you want is everyone body having opinions or just going around "improving' things on a daily basis, where will it end right!? Don't worry, we have 10 great ways that you can stifle this dreaded "Continuous Improvement Habit", in no time at all you will be tightly managing a group of people who will just follow through and do only what you tell them, sounds much better right?
Here's what you do:

1.  Don't give direction

​The last thing that you need is everyone knowing exactly what the goal is, if you keep everyone confused then they can't organise their attempts at improvement, in no time at all resources will be squandered and infighting will break out, if there are some stubborn ones you know that they will start repeating the same work as others in not time which will certainly discourage them.

2. Don't ever hire anyone with a Growth Mindset

It is important that your team, Ok group of people have a fixed mindset, in other words you need them to believe that things will never change, they can't learn any more than they already have. This is it, this is the pinnacle, the sooner everyone accepts it the better you will be. Someone with a growth mindset, the belief that they can keep learning & developing at will, that things can be constantly improved would be a disaster for this so don't hire any of them, and for any that are left in the organisation, find a way to isolate or just flat out get rid of them.

3. Focus on all the tools but don't share how they work together

So yes, the best thing is just don't share the tools and techniques that the continuous improvement people use, but let's face it they do like to talk about them. So, the next best thing is to actually play them at their own game, focus lots and lots on just the tools, apply them anywhere you feel like it especially where you shouldn't to ensure that people lose faith in them. It is also really important that you don't ever talk about the cultural side of the continuous improvement movement, how it can help people grow, improve their self-belief, how it aligns to organisational values and so forth, the last thing you want is for some do gooder asking about your organisational values!

4. No or too much Management Involvement

This is a tricky one, there is a point if you aren't careful just in the middle where your involvement could be useful, just enough so people know you care and are supporting it, helping them but not too much that they feel that you don't trust them, avoid this zone. Either show zero interest in the whole thing or go to the other extreme and be involve din everything, ensure you are the final decision maker in everything and then just don't decide.

5. Don't allow Collaboration

This one is obvious, but we include it to be certain. If people collaborate, they will start taking the best bits of everyone's ideas and the next thing you know you have Continuous Improvement happening. Just make people work hard, don't talk to each other should be a rule.

6. Don't Train People

Again, another obvious one but we don't want to skip anything here, so just whatever you do don't train people if possible. If you find that you are cornered by say HR and forced to train people, then either train them in something they will never use or train them to the bare minimum but don't give them time to share this training on their return or to implement anything they got taught.

7. Don't Let People Think for themselves

What do you think would happen if you let people just start thinking for themselves and making decisions about the right thing to do, exactly, improvement and that's more change that you want right? To ensure this one just continue to reinforce that you don't want their input, just do the job! Something else to be careful about here are suggestion schemes, don't allow them at all, if you do find you have inherited one then simply make sure they have a multi-page form to complete which then goes to a committee that meets infrequently for approval, once approved if you can then ensure that the executive team also needs to sign off on it then that will really kill it, also make it really hard to get money approved just in case.

8. Don't Tolerate Mistakes

When people make mistakes, and they will because lets face it they are people in a progressive continuous improvement environment they are seen as learning opportunities (see out points on thinking for themselves and training). It is critical that your people see mistakes as abject failure and that this will not be tolerated. Shouting is sometimes good, in public is better, warnings are just fantastic for ensuring everyone knows that you don't want mistakes. Eventually this will be accepted as the way things are, think about it as your contribution to this fabled "culture" thing you have heard about but the soft fluffies that support this continuous improvement stuff.

9. Limit who can do what 

If you find yourself backed into a corner and find that you have been "encouraged" to try this continuous improvement stuff, then simply pick a few select people and tell them it's all their problem. They alone must solve all the problems and they must use all the tools but don't go on courses as we don't condone training but again ensure they realise if they fail and make mistakes that they will probably, almost certainly be fired. Oh, and they can't talk about it with people either, see earlier notes on collaboration.

10. Ensure Unclear Ownership

If at all possible, create a situation where no one is actually certain who has ownership of anything, the more you leave them guessing about who has the authority to change something the better, in fact if you can make multiple people responsible for the same thing but with different objectives then that would be a master stroke.

In Summary

If you follow through on our 10 recommendations, then we can guarantee that in no time at all any burgeoning continuous improvement culture will evaporate from your organisation. Anyone who has a remote interest in continuing their Continuous Improvement fad will simply leave and join another company, with any luck your competitor! Let's be honest, how much help would that be for your competitor anyway, let them have these people and see how well they do!


You could do the complete opposite and have an amazing organisation driving continuous improvement at every opportunity with a culture that is the envy of the industry and a reputation for quality, lower costs and great delivery that means you are the only choice for your customers, the choice of course is yours. Choose wisely.

Get In Touch

If you need any support in creating a continuous improvement environment or in further developing your existing one then click here to make an appointment and find out how we can help you Make Things, Better. (if you want to follow the 10 steps above... don't call us!)

You can also call John on 0211649739 to set up a meeting 


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Wednesday, 22 January 2020

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