An evolutionary model of continuous improvement behaviour

John Bessant, Sarah Caffyn, Maeve Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In today's complex and turbulent environments the need for continuous improvements in products and processes is widely recognised. But the mechanisms whereby such a continual stream of innovation can be achieved are often less clearly identified. One option is to mobilise a high proportion of the workforce in a process of sustained incremental problem-solving, but experience with this approach suggests that successfully doing so is far from simple. Although many programmes for ‘Kaizen’ or ‘continuous improvement’ based on employee involvement are started, the failure rate is high. This paper reports on extensive case-study based research exploring how high involvement in continuous improvement can be built and sustained as an organisational capability. It argues that this phenomenon needs to be viewed as a cluster of behavioural changes which establish innovation routines in the enterprise, and presents a reference model for assessment of progress in the evolution of such capability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-77
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001


  • Continuous improvement
  • Kaizen
  • Incremental innovation
  • Employee involvement
  • Innovation routines


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