Home > Articles > Programming

  • Print
  • + Share This

1.5 Plan for Continuous Improvement

Improvement should be a continuous effort. It is easy to imagine the end of an SPI project, when you count your successes and failures. It's equally obvious that improvements are in some sense endless: As you alleviate some problems, others become visible. Both views make sense.

Organizing your SPI efforts as projects that have an end point lets you stop, step back, and evaluate your SPI initiative and its progress. When an SPI project ends, you can move responsibility for the new processes into the organization itself. Nonetheless, as Figure 1.5 shows, SPI initiatives are necessarily ongoing because there are always new problems and challenges, and solutions to old problems must be maintained and further developed.

Figure 1.5 SPI should be continuous

Examples from Practice

Although our experiences span only a few years, it is clear to us that a continuous approach is important. At Danske Data (Chapter 5), recent discussions have focused on how to organize the SPI effort in the coming years. Danske Data has long had a large methodology department. Initially, the SPI group attempted to dissociate itself from this department because it was not well regarded by software practitioners. However, the SPI effort has been gradually reorganized to include the methodology department so that it can fill the growing demand for maintaining new software processes. In some ways, the methodology department and the SPI initiative have merged. In other respects they are distinct initiatives. In any case, the SPI effort has now become a stable part of the organizational structure.

Another event at Danske Data supports this view. After two and a half years of SPI effort, a Bootstrap assessment showed that the company had reached its goal of maturity level 2. The CEO then decided to go after level 3. Evidently, the SPI effort will be ongoing for some time. A question remains, however, as to how far Danske Data will or should go on the conventional maturity ladder. Metaphorically speaking, it is not important to reach the summit. What matters is that you stay on an ascending path that is appropriate for your organization. Reaching one goal thus creates another, higher goal that has meaning for your processes and their context.

Key Factors

The key factors in a continuous approach are stepwise improvement, top-management commitment, and a sustainable improvement organization. Maturity models such as CMM, Bootstrap, and SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability Determination) embody the essence of stepwise improvement. All experiences suggest that such ladders take years to climb.

A continuous approach thus requires commitment from top management. A local or bottom-up initiative can be effective for a while, but it easily loses momentum. As time goes on, the focus on SPI initiatives will decrease unless they succeed in becoming part of the organization's strategic thrust.

To successfully climb the maturity ladder, you must install and maintain impeccable improvement processes. To do this, you need a sustainable improvement organization that is adaptable to changing circumstances. Management must directly allocate resources to such an organizational unit and must help it create and maintain organizationwide SPI awareness.

Factors that undermine the continuous approach are inadequate results and a marginal SPI effort. If results are not documented or the return on investment is poor, your SPI effort is unlikely to survive past the first project. In most cases, you cannot simply document improved maturity on a normative scale. Practical, convincing results are needed, and it is typically best to establish a simple metrics program that can help you argue for continuing your efforts (see Chapter 17).

Even when an SPI effort is showing results, organizational politics or other organizational issues can still marginalize it. Brüel & Kjær's SPI effort went from marginal to central and widely known and back to marginal (see Chapter 6). At this point, it looks as if Brüel & Kjær will most likely discontinue its six-year SPI effort.

Broader Insights

The IDEAL model clearly expresses SPI's continuous nature (McFeeley 1996). The main theory underlying the continuous approach is Humphrey's CMM (Humphrey 1989). The CMM is specific to software development, but it shares a basic structure with Crosby's five-level model of quality systems (Crosby 1979). The idea of continuous, stepwise improvement is also common to many other quality models.

In his work on Soft Systems Methodology, Checkland has been particularly clear on how alleviating some problems makes way for others (Checkland and Scholes 1990). Effective problem-solving approaches are therefore continuous. Checkland and Scholes also distinguish between two types of problem solving: intervention and interaction. The interventionist mode is external and uses problem solving to structure an internal inquiry. The interaction mode is internal and uses problem solving to make sense of experience. The latter mode is similar to the continuous approach, whereas the interventionist mode corresponds more with a focused collaboration with SPI consultants over a limited time.

Theories of organizational learning view learning as continuously present and as a significant factor in organized work and behavior (see, for example, Argyris and Schön 1996, Senge 1990).

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020