Purpose – To provide an overview of the history, evolution, and existing research on continuous improvement. Design/methodology/approach – Extensive review of the literature. Findings – This paper provides an overview of continuous improvement, its inception, how it evolved into sophisticated methodologies used in organizations today, and existing research in this field in the literature. Research limitations/implications – It does not provide an exhaustive review of the existing literature, or an exhaustive list of all continuous improvement programs, only the most well known. Originality/value – This paper traces how organizations have used various tools and techniques to address the need for improvement on various levels. The paper also presents research conducted in this field. It should be of value to practitioners of continuous improvement programs and to academics who are interested in how continuous improvement has evolved, and where it is today. To the authors’ knowledge, no recent papers have provided an historical perspective of continuous improvement. Furthermore, our paper also discusses the existing research in this field.