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continuousimprovementThere is a management concept called continuous improvement (CI) which has gained much global popularity in recent times, and in which there is frequently a key role implicated for management accountants.


The origins of CI date back to Japanese businesses (where the more commonly-used term is ‘kaizen’) around the middle of the last century, with Toyota being one of its key modern-day advocates. CI denotes an ongoing pursuit of advancement. This is typically aimed at via small and incremental steps, but which together are assumed to achieve significant cumulative gains in the long-run.


Another way of viewing CI is to steer away from ‘putting all eggs in one basket’. It connotes a fluid and balanced management approach that requires skilled leadership (including management accountants) and a workforce that embraces flexibility and continuity of goal-setting, rather than being fixed to spectacular end-achievements.


The ‘continuous’ element of CI highlights that management is not simply a means to reach specific end-goals. An emphasis on short-run success, fear of failure, conforming to norms, and a sparsity of curiosity are traits which do not normally get associated with CI.


Learning is regarded as an important aspect of CI, in terms of both new knowledge accumulation from the achievement of goals and reflection on failures. Other important aspects of the CI philosophy include openness towards adaptation, a desire for ‘ongoing betterment’, unquestioned effort, and avoidance of wallowing in past gains.