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The continuous improvement (CI) movement first found success when Edward Demmings, an American scientist whose ideas had been rejected in the United States, brought his 14 points for improvement to Japan. With his principles for improvement and tools for working with data, he was able to revolutionize Japanese manufacturing. Following his success in Japan, he was received back in America as a savior for American industry.
Operating under many names (Continuous Quality Improvement, Total Quality Improvement, Total Quality Management), CI is an ongoing, data-driven process that uses self directed groups to determine direction. The process is used to make choices, set benchmarks, and measure performance toward goals. While health care organizations had not historically used a production model to define services, the more traditional quality control and quality assurance programs were good building blocks for developing continuous improvement programs.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement has concentrated on CI and has promoted the use of the model for improvement developed by Gerald Langley, Kevin Nolan, and Thomas Nolan.