Nope, if you came here looking for a fan site, I’m afraid this isn’t what we are, CSI or Continual Service Improvement is a process of structured change and development that ultimately leads to the improvement of a service being delivered.

The human brain sees “improvements” automatically, I’m sure we’ve all received a set of directions and having completed the journey a few times thought “I’ll bet if I just change… I would get to my destination quicker/safer/more economically”. That’s the simplest form of “Improvement” I can think of. The more analytical of you may have timed your journey different routes or used another benchmark (was it by a busy road, how much petrol did I use) the point would be you are actually making a comparison, the net result is that you are able to look at you journey times and make and informed decision on which route is the most appropriate. A few weeks/months later no doubt some more changes come to mind or open up or there are road works on your “optimal” route, does that mean having changed once that you can’t change again? Heck no, you’ll change your route to the best, who knows you many have even found that a different route was always preferable at key times/days. What you’re actually doing is living the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) process.

I work in the IT sector where we consider CSI to be an core part of ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). But the mind-set and process works under many other methodologies, from 6 Sigma to EFQM. The truth is that process evolution/transition/improvement is recognised universally as a core requirement, you cannot expect to implement something and have that be the best route to success forever, so it becomes necessary to be able to quickly and efficiently be able to adapt to changes and and safely ensure ongoing success. The process of CSI does just that, you start by benchmarking what you do now (so look at your route and time it), then you theorise on alternative scenarios (look for different more favourable routes), predict improvements (evaluate options), test improvements (test run), check improvements against prediction (did reality match expectation), formalise new process (decide what your new route will be – accepting it may be the original). By systematically evolving your business processes and constantly checking if an actual improvement has been been made overall the net impact is a service improves even though each and every step/test may not be an actual improvement. In this case failure is just as good as success (as long as you go back to the original) because you learn more about your service (route).

ITIL uses a version of the Deming circle to describe the cycle and of course the Deming circle describes the cycle… proof if you needed it that there is nothing new under the sun.

What you can see though is that a Continual Improvement cycle doesn’t have to look for big things to improve, small improvements add up, the much touted story of American Airlines springs to mind. A process of incremental changes will gradually move you to where you want to go, but those steps may not be the ones you expected to take.