ICIPS Institute for Continuous Improvement
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Jargon Buster

The world of C.I. is full of technical jargon. This explains some common words in everyday language. There are numerous web sites that can give more detailed explanations.


Three questions to address in order to correct a problem; Concern, Cause, Countermeasure


Organising your workplace in 5 easy steps, sort, set in order, shine, standardise, sustain

80 / 20 rule

80 percent of your outcomes come from 20 percent of your inputs - see Pareto

Attribute data

One of two values e.g. yes or no, black or white

Balanced scorecard

An approach that translates strategy into performance metrics around finance, customers, process and learning


A measure of how your organisation or process works now


Comparing performance, usually against best in class

Business process management (BPM)

a holistic approach to improving workflow, streamlining and aligning all aspects processes with customer requirement

Categorical data

Data that can be grouped into categories

Continuous data

Data that can take any value such as time, height ( see discrete data )

Control charts (Shewhart charts)

A chart that shows if a process is in control

Core competencies

What an organisation, individual or team does best


What defines the character of the organisation made up of elements including : values, vision, rituals and routines, symbols, structures


What your customer considers to be critical to quality

Customer Service Excellence

A standard and framework to support organisations develop high standards of customer service

Cycle Time

The period required to complete one cycle of an operation

Deming cycles

Plan, do, check, act

Discrete data

Anything that can be measured exactly as a whole number such a the number of people


A non prescriptive model that considers 9 areas of activity with two lenses 1) what enabled a change 2) what were the performance results

Failure demand

Work product that doesn't meet customer need; resulting in additional work

Failure modes effect analysis (FMEA)

A systematic approach to identifying and measuring the impact of process failure and measuring the improvements that result from mitigating actions

First in first out (FIFO)

Items are removed or processed in the same order they are received


Going to where value is created e.g. the workplace

Genchi Genbutsu

Go and look in order to understand the problem


Reflect, look back and learn

Hoshin Kanri

Strategic and operational planning organisation wide

Hypothesis test

A test applied to statistically determine if an outcome happened by chance or not


Short and periodic meetings to disseminate key information and agree action plans

Inventory waste

Resource, materials that are under-utilised

Ishikawa Diagram

A structured way to brainstorm and capture cause and effect, also known as Fishbone due to the shape


Incremental improvements to reduce waste

Kaizen Event or Blitz

A short structured problem solving event where the team spends 100% of their time identifying ways to improve the process


A method of pulling work through a system so the downstream process signals the upstream process to replace what has been used

Kamishibai board

A board that shows on a red card what tasks are to do, by when and how, once complete the card is turned around to green


Understand a problem by asking- what? where? why? when? who?


A defined set of key and business critical values used to understand progress towards strategic objectives (see PI)

Lead Time

The total processing time from order to delivery


Anything that does not add value, in other words waste


Waste due to unevenness or variation

OODA loop

Observe, orient, decide then act


Taking a considered approach to change; plan, do, check, act

Pareto Chart

A combined bar and line graph to show frequency or occurrence and overall cumulative impact helping to identify the 20% of the process that causes 80% of the problem - see 80/ 20 rule

Performance board

A board displayed in the workplace and regularly updated to show performance


A quantitative or qualitative measure by which performance levels can be assessed (see KPI)

Poka yoke

A system to prevent errors

Qualitative data

Descriptive information

Quantitative data

Numerical information

Quality function deployment (QFD)

A matrix use to plot and rank product and service features to understand what is critical to the customer

Stakeholder mapping

Map stakeholders, their level of interest and influence in your work and how you should best manage them

Standard deviation

A measure that tells you how much variation there is in your process

Statistical process control

Monitoring performance outputs over time to monitor if output is in control

Supply chain

Every stakeholder in your product /service from customer to delivery


The % output that passes through a process step right first time


A tool to define who are responsible, accountable, needs to be consulted or Informed


Team information board

Total productive maintenance

Keeping equipment well maintained to prevent it from failing


A matrix that can be used to identify innovative solutions

Value Stream Map

Process map that captures information and process flows and performance data


Understanding where you want your organisation to be and the steps you need to take to get there

Visual management

Display of information so it is visible and understandable at a glance

Voice of the customer

What the customer wants; the customer could be internal or external


Work that is waiting to be processed

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A FREE and essential tool for any organisation who is serious about continuous improvement.