Systems of Continuous Improvement

Published: 5/12/2017 9:54 AM

What is Continuous Improvement?
“Continuous improvement is the result of a pragmatic system of continual improvement driven by customer needs, expectations, and requirements.”   

-Jim Shipley and Associates, Inc.

Continuous improvement is a process used by an organization to improve its results through monitoring and analyzing data to create changes that improve future performance. Continuous improvement requires the alignment of a school or district’s goals, people and values. This process does not start and stop; continuous improvement is an ongoing process of learning, reflecting, monitoring and evaluating for success. 

Seven Categories of High Performance
The theory behind continuous improvement is that usually when something goes wrong it is because a piece of the system needs to be fixed. There is a tendency to blame people and start over when a review of data and an improvement process could fix the problem instead.

Examining the relationships between the seven categories of high performance: Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement, Workforce, Operations, and Results from Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence using a linkage chart is a good place to start taking a big picture look at processes and organizations. 

Click here to learn more about the seven categories.

Linkage Chart Template

Video: Linkage at Pulaski County High School (PCHS)
Julie Hoff, Curriculum Specialist at PCHS, discusses how the Leadership Team uses the systems approach from the 7 Categories of Effective Systems to carry out their school's focus and vision.  This video includes how the leadership team uses the 7 Categories to create a workable strategic plan for continuous improvement. Click on the image below to view. Total time 3:45.

Quality Tools for Continuous Improvement
Below you will find explanations, templates and resources for several quality tools that can be used in the continuous improvement process.

30-60-90 Day Plan
These plans document the primary work, or “big rocks” the school or district will pursue over the course of the next 180 Days as aligned to the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan/ Comprehensive District Improvement Plan.  Each goal is broken down into action strategies which are assigned a leader, or “point person” and a method of effective communication of the strategy is determined.  A measure for outcome success and data collection is included for each “big rock” initiative. 

Instructions for using a 30-60-90 Day Plan

30-60-90 Day Plan Template

30-60-90 Day Plan District Sample - Estill County

CSIP Planning District Sample - Estill County

30-60-90 Day Plan Template with Explanations

Data Questions
Based on Edie Holcomb’s work, the data questions are an unemotional way to review data and information to inform decision making. They can be applied to any kind of data or information. They are currently embedded in the District and School Comprehension School Improvement Plans.

A Guide for Using the Data Questions

Video: Data Day at Franklin-Simpson High School
Ms. Houchens and Ms. Salyer explain the purpose of Franklin- Simpson's High School Data Day protocol.  The teachers explain how the day has evolved, the positives they gain from the Data Day process, and how this particular process assists in their efforts to implement continuous classroom improvement. Click on the image below to view the video. Total time 3:10.
These are steps in an improvement process.  PDSAs are about making processes better. They can be used to begin from scratch to build a process or to improve a process already in place.  PDSAs are a valuable tool for making improvements and monitoring the level of success.

Plan-Do-Study-Act Creates A Culture of Continuous Improvement
PDSAs are a valuable tool for making improvements and monitoring the level of success. Teacher leader Kathryn Claiborne and Curriculum Specialist Amanda Hall (Pulaski County High School) share how teachers within their school participate in department PLCs to enhance student achievement by implementing the Plan-Do-Study-Act process. In the following videos, they describe each cycle of PDSA and the protocol followed by each of the PLC teams which create a culture of continuous improvement. Click on the image below to view the video.
Total time 2:50
Total time 1:56
Total time 5:42
Total time 2:40
Video: Classroom PDSA-Student Choice/Student Voice
Kelly Clark, ELA teacher at East Carter High School, explains how she uses a pragmatic system of continual improvement in her classroom by using PDSA. She highlights each cycle of the Plan, Do, Study, Act monitoring process in her classroom.  She elaborates on the engagement of learning based on the classroom PDSA cycle being a student choice/student voice classroom monitoring tool. Click on the image below to view. Total time 1:36.
Choose from several different PDSA templates below to find the one that will work best for you:
What Makes a Good Plan? This PDF of a Power Point presentation outlines the element of a good plan, an essential part of using a PDSA.
To learn more about using PDSAs click here.

This tool is used to open communication and improve a process to make needed change.  Deltas are to be used to improve a process and drive next steps in the work.
Plus Delta Information Guidance developed by the KDE Education Recovery team.
5 Whys
This is a cause analysis tool that helps come to an understanding of the true reason for underperformance and what is preventing stakeholders from reaching success.  This simple tool is used by picking one identified factor preventing a desired performance outcome and asking, “why” that factor is occurring. The answer is recorded and subjected to the same question.  The process is repeated until the question has been asked five times or the root cause has been found.
Watch the video below for a more detailed explanation of the 5 Whys method.
For more information about 5 Whys, visit the MindTools website.
Survey tool that visually depicts the perceptions of the group.  This quality tool can be used as a pre-post-assessment to capture participants’ level of understanding of a concept or opinions about an issue. 
Fishbone Analysis
Cause analysis tool that assists groups to see the relationships between what is the present state and the desired state and the contributing factors of these differences.  The “large” bones represent key performance factors that have been identified as relative to the gap between current and desired performances. 

​​​​​​​Susan Greer
Office of Continuous Improvement and Support
300 Sower Blvd., 5th Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
(502) 564-5130
Fax (502) 564-8149