“5 on 5” – The Five Step Continuous Improvement Cycle

Summer is a great time for a pick-up game of “5 on 5” basketball.

When playing a game of “5 on 5” in basketball, the key to success is for the team to work well together, utilize the strengths of each of the players and repeatedly work their process as defined by the coach.

As the process is repeated over and over again through the course of the season, the really great teams “develop a chemistry” which is something that is unseen and unquantifiable, but which gives the team an edge over its competition that leads to success.

The same is true in the business world for companies that want to improve and succeed.

A business team needs to work well together, utilize the strengths of each of the team members and use a process that is repeated over and over. The following continuous improvement cycle used repeatedly will lead to a new “chemistry” within the organization so that the culture begins to change to one of continuous improvement.

5 Step Continuous Improvement Cycle


  1. Identify the target process
  2. Organize and empower an improvement team
  3. Describe the issues, concerns or opportunity
  4. Collect current performance data
  5. Create a process map


  1. Identify the process customers and suppliers
  2. Define the process inputs and outputs
  3. Define the process requirements
  4. Identify wastes and value-added activities
  5. Generate a list of potential improvements


  1. Establish desired performance goals
  2. Prioritize the potential solutions
  3. Establish the selection criteria
  4. Select the best solution(s)
  5. Define the desired process


  1. Develop an action plan to achieve the goals
  2. Develop process performance metrics
  3. Document the solutions(s)
  4. Test the changes
  5. Implement per the action plan


  1.  Establish ongoing feedback
  2. Measure progress per the action plan
  3. Compare results with desired performance goals
  4. Determine corrective actions that need to be taken
  5. Repeat the cycle to define new opportunities

The key to really being successful using this process is the very last step – going back to the beginning and looking for new opportunities. Without this, it is a one-time change, not continuous improvement.

 All too often companies declare victory when a change is complete and sit back for the new status quo to set in rather than taking another look at things to find more opportunities.

By using this cycle on a formal basis over and over as problems or opportunities are addressed in the organization, inherent use of the cycle will begin to occur since people will become accustomed to it and the culture of the organization will begin to embrace the idea of continuous improvement.

This resulting chemistry that begins to develop will be unseen and unquantifiable but will provide an edge for the organization so that it can succeed within itself and against the competition.

Whether a company is going down the path of Lean Enterprise Performance, implementing a whole new ERP business system or simply making improvements in some part of the organization, this five-step cycle is one that we use on a formal basis.

It can be a quick blitz to accomplish a focused task or a longer term assignment that is making a more significant change in the organization. Regardless, this 5 step process provides the structure needed for making the improvement.

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CEO at Ultra Consultants | Website | + posts

Jeff is the founder of Ultra Consultants, a well-known voice in the ERP consulting industry and an expert on ERP solutions for discrete and process manufacturers. Over the last 40-plus years, his companies have helped more than 2,000 organizations improve their business processes, select ERP software and implement advanced solutions.

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