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A continuous improvement manager is a specialized manager that oversees specific processes and procedures. The position can be compared and contrasted with a typical generalized manager who oversees a static department. The functions of a person in this job are multifaceted. The primary function is to ensure that existing processes maintain a high level of performance. A secondary, but vital, function of the manager's job is to continuously review and refine those processes to make additional improvements.
The role of the continuous improvement manager has evolved from traditional task-oriented work groups such as Six Sigma teams. These teams were formed to implement procedural changes with the objective of obtaining better results. Over time the benefits of these procedural changes tended to fade and fizzle out due to a lack of supervision. This caused the new procedural systems to devolve, thus re-creating the original problem. As a result, many businesses and corporations began to implement the continuous improvement manager role to maintain and expand upon the results of process improvement projects.
Managers in this role are considered to be process experts by many of the companies that employ them. As such, they are compensated similarly to other process managers in their fields. The main difference between a process expert and a general process manager is that these types of managers usually do not have a supervisory role within the company for which they work; rather, there is usually a separate staff dedicated to the implementation of the improvement plans created by the continuous improvement manager. Their pay scale tends to be on the higher side of middle management, depending upon their education, experience, and past results. As process improvement results are usually quantifiable, managers are often compensated depending upon performance metrics.
Continuous improvement managers are typically well educated, with a bachelor of science degree considered to be the minimum education requirement. Many have advanced degrees, such as a master of business administration (MBA) or similar degrees. In order to be effective in their role, continuous improvement managers need to understand the core business and its processes and procedures; thus they are typically promoted from within their industry or company.
Often, the manager plays a role in process improvement projects prior to becoming a manager. During troubled times, continuous improvement managers become increasingly valuable. When companies find it difficult to grow profits through organic growth, they look for improvement managers to drive profits through productivity and innovation, making the position fairly recession resistant.
@Charred - I think that process improvement is a buzz word that sends shivers down the spines of other employees. People think that they are going to get laid off. It’s a fair concern, I think; the reality is that you can in fact have too many people spread thin over too few processes.
However, I think that the best way to improve processes in difficult economic times is through automation, as you pointed out. If you can build databases or reports (or have someone from IT do it) then you may be able to reduce a lot of the manual tasks and reduce clutter.
You can do this without laying off your employees. You would just have to train them on how to use the new systems.
I was hired by a company once to help with processes and procedures. Although the title of the job was not continuous improvement manager, I think that the job description implied continuous process improvement.
I certainly didn’t have the credentials described in the article. But mainly I met with different accountants and analysts (it was for an accounting department) and had them describe to me what their current processes and procedures were for various tasks.
We discussed if there were ways to improve these processes, which included consolidating tasks that were similar, and also using automation. I was, to some extent, at the mercy of the other employees since they had to explain these processes to me. I wasn’t an accountant.
Still, everyone was very cooperative, and we were able to streamline a lot of the things that they did and just as importantly, document these tasks.