This paper describes the introduction of continuous improvement (CI) in three small enterprises with employees with little educational background. The approach adopted was carefully tuned to the actual situation and conditions in the firms. A key element in the approach was that facilitating the learning process of both the employees and the management was regarded as core to the continuity of the CI activities. The research suggests that, in order to create a climate of confidence, consultants hired as external coaches to support CI activities must, on the one hand, respect the owner‐manager’s need of sovereignty and the short‐term, “flexible”, style of the small enterprise. At the same time, their role is also to support the long‐term learning process. This requires these consultants to strengthen their abilities not only to cope with different and often unforeseen situations, but also to balance short‐term and long‐term issues.
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