Monday 15 January 2018

Continuous versus Continual improvement

"Continuous improvement" and "Continual improvement" are use interchangeably and shouldn't be use in that manner! There is a difference. Let us start by analyzing the semantics of these words.

Continuous indicates duration without interruption.

Continual indicates duration that continues over a long period of time, but with intervals of interruption.

Continuous improvement

Continuous improvement means that organizations are in a constant state of driving process improvements. This involves a focus on linear and incremental improvement within existing processes.

Continual improvement

A continual improvement mean that organizations go through process improvements in stages. Even and these stages are separate by a period of time. This period of time might be necessary to understand if the improvements did actually help the bottom line! In some cases, the results might take a while to come to fruition.

Continuous versus Continual

A more comprehensive innovation definition will definitely include continuous improvement or "incremental" innovation but expands to include radical or disruptive innovation. Which creates new and unexpected products, services, business models and other valuable outcomes.

We need this definition because it's possible to conceive of great new products and services. That aren't base on incremental improvements to existing products but the continuous improvement definition treats these outcomes as if they were magic.  They aren't, they are just the result of a more expansive definition and expectation for innovation.

After researching this, I have found that the usage of these terms is very loose and interchangeably. A number of authors have recently publish their opinions indicating that continual improvement is of a broader scope than continuous improvement.


The problem with Six Sigma, Lean and Continuous Improvement adherents is that they act as if innovation is somehow derivative or subordinate to these tools, rather than acknowledging that innovation is a much broader set of outcomes and capabilities. That continuous improvement is a small portion of a much larger innovation umbrella.

When innovation is define in the context of Continuous improvement. It loses its power to engage and to create, to generate completely new and unexpected products, services and business models instead it is held captive to those who would seek a predictable but incremental solution every time.


  1. My name is Marc Summerfield. I prepared a PowerPoint® document describing how to write effective emails. I would like to include the graphic (clipart) described as:
    Time and Improvement Continual versus Continuous Graph.
    I am considering marketing the document as an e-book. May I have permission to embed the graphic in my marketed document? If permission is granted, I will cite the source.
    Marc Summerfield

  2. Will you consider my request regarding using the "Continual versus Continuous" Graph?

    1. Hi Dear Marc Summerfield.,

      OK! you can use this image with proper source link..

      Further, you need any help regarding your documentation, you can feel free to describe in the comment section..

      Have nice day...