Continuous Process Improvement is somewhat funny when it is actually applied. Sometimes it is highly discontinuous with leaps of insight, waste reduction and order of magnitude improvements in Efficiency and Effectiveness. Sometimes accidental improvements in technology makes these kinds of process improvement possible!
Take the simple example of how Digital Photography improved the Automobile Insurance Claims Process!
When cars get into accidents the world over, Insurance Estimators or Local Repair Shops used to take pictures of the cars that were in accidents using photos in 35 mm. It took a couple of days to get them developed into pictures and then sent physically through mail or overnight couriers to the Insurance company headquarters. Claims Management then approved repairs and the repair process went ahead on its merry way.
Sometime around 2000, Digital Cameras came along, most insurance companies had servers accessible through the Internet or made interfaces to their Claims Mainframe systems available for integration. Photographs were now uploaded to the Claims computers five minutes after they are taken, and the repair process went ahead from there.
This must have cut the process cycle time by at least 2 or 3 days, making it easier for the end customer to get the car repiared that much earlier, and hence, better service from the Insurance companies! Having a car accident is traumatic enough. Most people would like to get their cars back to normal as quickly as possible and get on with life.
You could have improved the process by shaving off a few hours here and there, but discontinous process improvements were made possible by changes in technology!
The lesson here is that Continuous Process Improvement does not have to be incremental, small changes at a time. Sometimes laws and technology could have profound effects on a business process and quite by accident, improve the process enormously, quickly!
Accident is the name of the greatest of inventors – Mark Twain