Continual improvement: How is it different from continuous improvement?

In my college days, one of my professor used to describe all the Quality management jargon quite diligently but then I didn’t get the point behind all that effort. Now I see how people make use of some popular interchangeable words so loosely; ‘Continual improvement’ is one of their victim!

I quickly did a google search and found this funny yet apt explanation:

The words continual and continuous are like twins: they both come from continue, but they get mad if you get them confused. Continual means start and stop, while  continuous means never-ending.

Though when we talk with respect to improvement…

The adjective continual describes something that’s recurring, that happens again and again.

The adjective continuous describes something that occurs over space or time without interruption.

My professor used to describe the difference between two in following ways-

Continual Improvement

Continuous Improvement

We can comfortably say that continuous improvement is a subset of continual improvement. The term ‘Continual improvement’  also includes room for discontinuous improvements (innovative or radical improvements, such as in the lean manufacturing movement).Continuous improvements are linear, incremental improvements to an existing process (Kaizen).

Though I tried my best to explain the difference, your comments are welcomed to add more to this topic.


Deepika Misra

QA Alliance