There are two basic strategies for process improvement, 1) discontinuous and 2) continuous or incremental process improvement. Continuous change is slow, even though it may have a large impact overtime. On the other hand, discontinuous changes, to use a baseball phrase, reflect a swing for the fences. Said another way, discontinuous change focuses on delivering lots of value quickly.
Discontinuous process improvement reflects a major change in how work is done. For example, an immediate shift from plan based development (waterfall) to Agile, or shutting down a mainframe and shifting to cloud computing.
Why would an organization assume the pain, effort and risk of discontinuous change? In some cases it is because the organization has no choice, it is either change or die. This forces the organizational culture to embrace a single large change rather than many small changes. The goal of discontinuous process improvement is to reset the assumptions that underlie productivity through the introduction of a large unavoidable change. The change event creates an environment that causes the behaviors and rules that generate a specific productivity to be changed so that the organization can deliver value more efficiently than before.