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The 4 Key Components of a Successful Continuous Improvement (CI) Programme

A continuous improvement (CI) programme can be thought of as a complex machine, governed by many levers. It stands to reason, then, that whether you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise or part of the Fortune Global 500 Index, there are many elements that can factor into why your CI programme might not be performing as you’d intended. 

  • The internal resources you need to deliver your CI programme effectively are simply insufficient.
  • External challenges driven by forces outside of your control have compelled your organisation to adapt in ways that hinder the effectiveness of the programme. Work from home initiatives as a result of the continued impact of the global health crisis is one recent example of this.
  • Perhaps a change in business objectives has moved the goalposts by which you were monitoring the ongoing effectiveness of your programme.

These and many other challenges can be overcome by implementing an effective CI programme. 

In our experience, there are four key components to every successful CI programme. If you are setting up a CI programme for the first time, then getting these right from day one is integral to delivering a programme that supports, enables and transforms your business effectively and sustainably.

If your programme is already underway, it’s not too late to revisit the process with these components in mind to adapt your CI programme and its delivery for success.

The four key components of a successful CI programme in 2023 explained 




For us, leadership means providing the context, drive and building blocks for change with a focus on constructing positive behaviours and CI-specific competence. Without the right leadership, there’s no organisational engagement, and the CI programme will fail. A company’s leaders must be committed to the programme and willing to learn, particularly if they want the rest of the organisation to follow suit.

According to Kotter, for change to happen, at least 75% of a company’s management needs to be on board. This entails the C-suite understanding lean management, having a long-term focus and embracing a strong communication strategy. A CI programme that is not owned both at the top of the organisation and throughout the organisational structure is not sustainable.

“Research by McKinsey found that over the next two years, HR leaders wanted to prioritise initiatives that strengthen agility and identity. That included 25% who prioritised driving leadership, culture, and employee experience.”

To see real growth, leaders need to have an interest, discipline and commitment. Ultimately, great leaders who fully embrace the CI programme show their employees that they care; they want to identify opportunities for improvement, growth and aim to create a stronger company for the long term.


We believe that the tools used in creating a successful programme need to be selected appropriately against the individual context and capability of the organisation. Typical tools include WCM (World Class Manufacturing), TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), Lean, Six Sigma, or, in our case, an intelligent blend of each.

Heineken's Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) Programme:
Play Video about Summary of a presentation by Frank van der Grijspaarde, Global TPM Director, detailing the evolution of Heineken's Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) program since 2005. The program, initially implemented in 28 breweries, now encompasses over 180 breweries worldwide and includes customer service, logistics, and planning as of 2009. He emphasizes the pivotal role of Henkan, Heineken's strategic partner, in refining the TPM program through audits, gap analysis, and solutions in various areas like Shopfloor Excellence and Leadership Agenda. Frank praises Henkan's expertise, communication skills, and tailored approach, recommending them for continuous improvement and process optimization endeavors
A Comprehensive Approach to Enhancing Operational Efficiency and Quality in Brewing

When you apply the tools that are used in a CI programme, you need a comprehensive model and framework. Of course, a clear structure to the material is integral but flexibility is also important. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ in a CI programme; if it’s not adapted to the specific situation, then it simply will not work. That’s why we typically choose to use the intelligent blend; to satisfy the specific needs of our clients. 


In order to create real organisational change, we need to paint a picture of where the company is going and illustrate the steps that will be taken to get there. 

As the name ‘roadmap’ suggests, each programme can be thought of as a journey. A successful CI programme requires systematic planning and management to ensure milestones are achieved. Along with planning, there needs to be ownership at every level. The CI roadmap is a blueprint that must be accepted, owned and enacted by everyone. 

This is where CI expertise comes in. Whether that is in-house or an external team of CI specialists, the end goal is to enable an organisation to be self-sufficient. For us, the primary factors that need to be considered when creating an effective roadmap are vision, commitment, resources, skills, and a solid, detailed plan. 

Stakeholder buy-in will be integral to upholding the vision and culture you’re setting out to create, both now and in the future.


Fundamental to the success of the organisation is the development of the appropriate organisational behaviours. Culture change should therefore be at the centre of any successful CI programme. We need an army of problem solvers, whereby all individuals are empowered and have the desire to make improvements autonomously in their daily activities. The mindset is one of getting to the root of problems rather than firefighting, via the use of appropriate tools and a ‘will do’ attitude. 

Organisations are owned and run by the people. To create the right behaviours for the organisational culture that you desire, you need to reward and recognise those appropriate behaviours and create an environment within which they can flourish.


The Henkan way: Making you the Experts

Continuous improvement programmes aim to achieve autonomy in the workplace. As CI professionals, rather than simply handing off a ‘Henkan model’, we adapt to your world to design a bespoke roadmap that contains the right tools and right approach to ensure you and your organisation are well placed to successfully navigate the CI Journey to achieve world-class performance.

The 4 key factors graphic

We have the comprehensive qualities and values that are needed to understand the challenges of any client. With our Intelligent blend of toolkits, significant technical expertise, empathetic minds, and experience-based knowledge, we provide a customer-centric support programme that is specifically designed to meet the needs of your business.

Are you looking to launch or adapt your continuous improvement programme? We can help you to effectively create a World Class Enterprise by engaging your people to improve business processes in pursuit of operational excellence. Our consultants are specifically selected for their ability to engage people and organisations in successfully delivering CI programmes that guide you on your journey and make you the experts.

We create 360° value

The source of competitive advantage is hidden within your organisation. Our job is to utilise its real potential, helping you achieve optimal efficiency.