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.
Continuous improvement managers are often process experts themselves, but they also must be skilled at leveraging the expertise of other employees in order to make continuous process improvements. 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, a manager plays a role in process improvement projects prior to becoming a manager. During troubled times, continuous improvement managers can become increasingly valuable. When companies find it difficult to grow profits through organic growth, they may look for improvement managers to drive profits through productivity and innovation.