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There’s a great way to visualize how the 5-step continuous improvement cycle works within a business.


In basketball, there can only be five players on the court for each team at any given time. The goal of basketball is to utilize each team member’s strengths in a way that maximizes the team’s chance to win.

The key to success is working well together and repeatedly working on successful basketball processes as defined by the coach. As the team spends more time together, chemistry forms between them. Soon, the team is a well-oiled machine winning game after game.


The same is true for businesses. If they want to grow and make money, that is.

The 5-step continuous improvement cycle

Implementing a cycle as intense at the 5-step continuous improvement cycle isn’t easy. This improvement cycle can be advantageous for businesses that stick with the journey and practice dedication and patience.

Let’s break it down:

1. Define

  • Identify the target process
  • Organize and empower an improvement team
  • Describe the issues, concerns or opportunity
  • Collect current performance data
  • Create a process map

2. Identify

  • Identify the process customers and suppliers
  • Define the process inputs and outputs
  • Define the process requirements
  • Identify wastes
  • Identify value-added activities
  • Generate a list of potential improvements

3. Select

  • Establish desired performance goals
  • Prioritize the potential solutions
  • Establish the selection criteria
  • Select the best solution(s)
  • Define the desired process

4. Implement

  • Develop an action plan to achieve the goals
  • Develop process performance metrics
  • Document the solution(s)
  • Test the changes
  • Implement the action plan

5. Evaluate

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


On most basketball teams, there is usually a star player. Perhaps the most crucial step of the 5-step continuous improvement cycle (star player of the team), is the last step – Evaluation. This is when you and your team take everything you’ve learned throughout the cycle and go back to the very beginning. You’re able to make slight improvements or find new opportunities.


It’s called continuous improvement for a reason. Too often businesses declare victory when a successful change is complete. They then wait for the status quo to change in their favour instead of remaining innovative and on the cutting-edge.


Continue to use this cycle, and employees throughout your businesses will embrace the new normal and the organization will embrace the continuous improvement culture and mindset. Chemistry will begin to develop throughout your company and will provide an edge against your competitors.


Businesses can use this 5-step process to accomplish various tasks, from short-term goals to more extended assignments. Your business can implement the cycle structure across departments for better communication, better efficiency, and better teamwork. In turn, your business will be able to improve all processes throughout the business continuously.


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