Continual Improvement

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The first general management practice is continual improvement. And for the exam, this is the one you need to know in depth in the general management practice section of the 34 practices. For this one, you need to be able to explain continual improvement, what its purpose is, and how it applies throughout the value chain.
The purpose of the continual improvement practice is to align the organization's practices and services with changing business needs through the ongoing identification and improvement of services, service components, practices, or any other element involved in the efficient and effective management of products and services. It's basically asking, "How do we make things work better?" When thinking about continual improvement, there are a couple of key things that it focuses on.
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First, we want to encourage continual improvement across your organization. You always want to be aiming for something bigger, better, faster, cheaper, or more efficient. The second key function of continual improvement is to secure time and budget for continual improvement. It's really easy in an organization to keep working on the same things, day in and day out and not think about how to improve. You want to make sure you're securing that time and budget so you can continue to work on improving your processes. Next, think about identifying and logging improvement opportunities. Anytime you're working on something, you might have an idea and say, "This would be better if we did X thing." At that point you log that down, identify it, and that way, eventually, you might be able to get back to it and cause that improvement to happen.
Another thing you want to think about is how you assess and prioritize your improvement opportunities. You may have a hundred great ideas, but you have to choose which one you should be working on first. And all that is part of continual improvement. You also want to think about how you're going to make a business case for those improvement actions. At some point, you need to get budget for your improvement initiative so you're going to have to think about how you're going to do that and make the case for it to your upper management. Maybe you're going to say your organization should do this improvement action and it's going to take 20 hours to build it, but it's going to save 10 hours a week. That would be an example of making your business case.
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Next, you want to think about how to plan and implement those improvements and figure out how you're going to measure and evaluate the improvements and the results of those improvements. You can revisit one of the articles here at itil.diontraining.com about the continual improvement model to realize that this is just the formal practice that is going to work that model. Also make sure that you're coordinating your improvement activities across the organization. this is because you want to think holistically and act widely across the organization for the best improvements.
Now when you're working with continual improvement, there are a lot of different tools you can put into your toolbox. These are things like methods, models, and techniques. These are things like lean methods where you're trying to reduce waste, multi-phase projects where you're trying to organize the way you're going to do things, and get incremental improvements. Do maturity assessments to figure out how mature your organization is and figure out if you are operating at peak efficiency. Use development ops so that you can develop things quicker and faster and get them into the market. You might use something like a balanced score card where you look at the improvement and look at it through the lens of the four different dimensions of service management. You also might be using agile improvements and techniques. We may also try to get some quick wins or even do a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is something taught in business school. It is where you list your organization's Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats and then figure out how that applies to your improvement initiative.
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One more technique or tool that you should be using is called a Continual Improvement Register. A Continual Improvement Register or CIR is a database or a structured document you use to track and manage all of the improvement ideas from the identification until the final action. Now let's say you are just sitting at your desk and you come up with a great idea. If you just think about it and nothing gets done, you're never going to improve. So instead, you should submit that idea into the CIR. You'll log it in there and, eventually, figure out whether or not you're going to work on that improvement idea. You also need to determine whether that improvement has a low, medium, or high impact and what the resolution is.
One other thing to tackle in continual improvement is how it's operated when you talk about continual improvement with the relationships involved. This can be placed in a pyramid. Start at the bottom, and start thinking about your partners and suppliers, how you can improve your relationships with partners and suppliers. Do that by going through and looking at your contracts, including how you're going to measure, report, and improve those processes. Look inside your entire organization, which is your next large audience.
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From there, try to get active participation and continual improvement initiatives as a core part of everyone's job. When it comes down to it, continual improvement isn't the job of the continual improvement manager. It's the job of everyone in the organization. The continual improvement team's job, led by the continual improvement manager, is to lead the efforts and advocate for the practice across the entire organization. They're the ones trying to get everyone else in the organization to join in the fight and help everyone improve. Then, all the way at the top of the pyramid, you have those few leaders at the top. They are going to be the ones who are going to try to embed continual improvement into the way that people think and work by providing that proper vision.
So, this really does circle back to that continual improvement model found in our other articles here at itil.diontraining.com. If you look at the pyramid and do it from the top to the bottom instead, you'll start seeing the leaders who come up with the vision, which is the beginning of your continual improvement model. Then you have the continual improvement team, and that team is going to be doing the baseline assessments of where you are and determining where you want to be. They're also going to help develop the plans. But then when you want to take action, you have to do that with everyone in the organization including your partners and suppliers outside the organization. And then you're going to reassess where you are and figure out to keep this momentum going and do it all over again.
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Now, the last thing to talk about here in continual improvement is how it integrates with the different value chain activities. If you look at how continual improvement is going to work inside plan in the service value chain, the continual improvement practice is applied to all planning activities. You're going to look at the methods and techniques to make sure that they're all relevant for the organization's current objective in the context in which you're operating. Look at this from the improve perspective, and you'll realize that the continual improvement practice is key to this value chain activity. It's all about improvement. It structures your resources and activities to enable that improvement at all levels of the organization and across the service value system. As you look at the rest of the service value chain and the value chain activities of engage, design and transition, obtain and build, and deliver and support, each of these value chain activities are subject to continual improvement because you're always trying to improve your practices, activities, and processes. The continual improvement practice itself is applied to all of these being inside everything in ITIL 4. You're always trying to continue to improve. Continual improvement is the key to your success in ITIL 4 because you never want to stop improving.

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