When I got the call, my lab manager Mike and I spent around an hour with several Top Layer technical people. Did they beat us up? No. They asked questions, listened, discussed possible improvements and, generally, used the time to let us help them discover flaws and suggest possible improvements.
That is a perfect example of a continuous improvement process that works. These folks got it. With their attitude, I expect that they will be tough contenders next time around.
As associate program director for the Master of Science in Information Assurance program at Norwich University, I have had the opportunity to see the benefits of continuous process improvement up close. We have such a program. In fact, if a student catches an error in our locally produced material, reporting it to us is good for extra credit in the grade book.
The pinnacle of this program at N.U. is our annual residency week in summer. Graduating students get to unload on us in focus groups. And, believe me, they do. Every year we evaluate their comments and implement most of them. I am piloting some major changes right now, and the students love it. Those students are our customers. They're buying an education from us, and if we don't deliver they let us know. We listen and, more important, we act.
That is the nature of effective continuous improvement: listen to the customers and act. If you do that, you cannot lose.