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Our team has seen firsthand how these concepts benefit improvement leaders and enthusiasts as they work not only to sustain their own improvement efforts, but also to influence the overall culture in their organizations and systems to continuously improve.


Improvement is a powerful methodology to engage people closest to the work—students and teachers in classrooms or patients and providers in hospitals—to create positive changes to the systems they experience. Through continuous improvement people can identify and test solutions in real-time and use data for learning to change systems and improve outcomes.

Once organizations begin to see positive changes through improvement, improvement teams and leaders often seek to increase impact not just from one singular project, but bigger systemic outcomes. This requires sustained and coordinated improvement efforts by everyone in the system.

To do this, leaders and improvement practitioners need more than a technical understanding of how to do continuous improvement. It requires an evolution from improvement as a separate program or philosophy to a sustained way of working in every role across organizations. Organizations and networks of organizations need the capacity to use improvement methods with increased complexity and with an intentional commitment to this deeper organizational transformation. This is part of the greater cultural and personal transformation to work towards delivering more just and equitable services.

Shift’s new framework, Building a Culture of Learning and Improvement for Equity (free download here), condenses decades of learning from large-scale improvement initiatives to identify the essential elements and common phases to building this deeper organizational culture of improvement (see blog by Shift’s Founder Learning from 20 Years of Building Improvement Cultures). This framework supports leaders and improvement practitioners at any stage in their improvement journey to:

  • Consider how the larger ecosystem of regulatory systems that assure quality and research that generates evidence can contribute to (and possibly detract from) a culture of learning and improvement
  • Articulate what aspects of improvement practice they aim to embed and grow within their organizational culture
  • Identify the elements needed to intentionally grow a culture of improvement and to proactively plan for them
  • Describe the different phases of development that exist along this journey


In the first part of the framework, we describe an ecosystem in which improvement interacts with a set of complementary approaches: regulation to assure quality, research to generate evidence and effective practices, and improvement methodologies to engage people and organizations in providing the best services. We then provide a vision for how improvement serves as a powerful approach to change systems with an intentional commitment to equity.

In part two, we outline a framework for the organizational and personal transformation to sustain an equity-focused improvement practice. While it is not a one-size-fits-all approach, the framework intends to spark conversations and resource planning. At the core of the framework are diverse, flexible, and durable improvement practices, and these practices flourish over time with support from ten essential elements. We describe and show the interconnections between these practices and essential elements in depth.   

The third and fourth parts describe how this culture can develop over time, spanning a journey from “pre-existing” where there are no deliberate improvement efforts to “maturity” where improvement is integrated into the organizational structure, culture, and daily functions. These parts of the framework are helpful planning tools for organizations to assess which phase their organization is in and where to focus their ongoing efforts to build a culture of learning and improvement in service of creating more equitable systems.

We are excited to introduce this powerful framework and paper as a public resource! Our team has seen firsthand how these concepts benefit improvement leaders and enthusiasts as they work not only to sustain their own improvement efforts, but also to influence the overall culture in their organizations and systems to continuously improve.


Want to go deeper?

Whether your organization is early in its improvement journey or advanced practitioners, you will go deeper into these concepts in our new course, SAIL (Sustain and Advance Improvement & Learning)

In this course, your team will work with Shift facilitators and learn from other organizations to go deeper into this framework to:

  • Assess areas of strength and growth for your organization
  • Prioritize the elements that will most advance your efforts based on your organization’s phase of development
  • Learn and select strategies to create a holistic plan to advance each essential element of the framework

Learn more about SAIL and register here!

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