Abstract: Purpose. The purpose of this paper is to define a general and common construct in order to measure the level of difficulty companies experience when they implement continuous improvement (CI). Additionally, a rank of barriers is obtained together with a rank of companies. Design/methodology/approach In order to achieve the objective, first, a literature review is carried out to specify the domain of the construct; second, a sample of items is selected; third a survey is carried out in companies that have already implemented CI initiatives, the results being thus limited to this population; fourth, measures are purified by analysing the reliability and validity of the measurements, and finally results are obtained. The Rasch measurement theory will be used to provide a new perspective on a mature research topic. Findings. It can be concluded that a new valid construct has been defined together with a rank of CI barriers, being lack of time the main barrier. A rank of companies is also obtained which is a first step in the development of future research studies. Practical implications.
Managers are provided with a better understanding of the barriers that can obstruct CI implementation. Thus, the rank of CI barriers guides managers through the most common and important obstacles so that they will be able to plan better CI strategies. In addition, the rank of companies allows each company to undertake a benchmarking exercise. Originality/value. This work proposes a new way of analysing the difficulty in implementing CI as a continuum, rather than as independent barriers. From a theoretical point of view, it defines a new construct and offers a rank of CI barriers together with a rank of companies based on their level of difficulty when implementing CI initiatives. This is something new, as previous studies were mainly focussed on the items side. From a practical point of view, this study offers the surveyed companies the opportunity to see how they are positioned with respect to the other companies. Moreover, this rank of companies is the foundation on which to develop further studies with a practical orientation in the future.