Kevin Eyre suggests that lean practitioner often ‘get stuck’ at continuous improvement and fail to achieve their aspirations of continuous learning, characteristic of the lean archetype, Toyota. He argues that what we typically refer to as continuous improvement really consists of two types: continuous improvement, rigorously establishing stability whilst relentlessly detecting and eliminating problems at source; and, discontinuous improvement, large-scale and radical change, both planned and unexpected (new product, culture change, new technology). Discontinuous improvement requires high level thinking and integration with the system of continuous improvement. Both continuous and discontinuous improvements are underpinned by Deming’s Plan, Do Check, Act (PDCA) improvement cycle.
Kevin argues that creating continuous and discontinuous improvement is a managerial task. However, the past of creating a climate for organisational learning is a leadership one. Leaders seeking to achieve real organisational learning will need to be clear on three guiding principles: the notion of the enterprise as a system must be clearly understood; the need to create a safe environment for experimentation must be understood; and, the need to create a management process to capture the learning generated by change and experimentation must be understood.