Continuous Improvement and the Pursuit of Excellence

We relentlessly pursue continuous improvement and excellence in projects, products, processes, and services, and define success as getting the right things done well.

  • Strive for excellence and great things
    • Encourage innovation, creativity, and being leading edge
    • Make the ordinary exceed expectations - give it your own special twist
    • Value design - of products, information, and organizations
    • Seek out system-wide and "white space" solutions
    • Take risks and try new things - use "at bats"
  • Relentlessly pursue incremental improvement
  • Get the right things done well
    • Value productivity, getting it done, and making it happen now
    • Drive projects with a sense of urgency and focus on closure
    • Measure twice and cut once - planning saves time
    • Foster a passion for progress and a sense of purpose
    • Persevere and get things done - good things take time
    • Balance seemingly contradictory goals (e.g., "excellent" and "rapid")

Processes and Programs that Support Continuous Improvement and the Pursuit of Excellence

Usability Testing

Usability testing is the assessment of a system in terms of learnability, ease-of-use, flexibility, safety, effectiveness, efficiency, and the attitude of users to the system. Our usability department uses various techniques, such as paper prototype testing, focus groups, questionnaires and surveys, as well as our on-site usability lab, to provide empirical feedback on prototype and working versions of software. This allows for a structured approach to gathering data about how users interact with software.

Design Review

At MathWorks, a "design review" is an opportunity for others to help you to analyze and improve something, whether it is a plan you have prepared or a product concept or a design you have developed. We believe in teamwork, and reviews are a way to get a whole team on the same page. We also believe that even the best idea from the most senior person can be improved by having lots of others look at it, challenge it, and recommend ways to improve it. Be prepared - your first design review can feel overwhelming. You've been working on something for a long time, you're proud of it, and all of a sudden a group of people make all sorts of suggestions and point out lots of weaknesses. Try to avoid being defensive - everything can be improved, and lots of plans have flaws that are not easy to spot. The members of your design review team are there to help you. If you are a member of a design review team, your role is to speak up, be constructive and specific, and try to come up with alternative suggestions. It may be frustrating and embarrassing to be told that you didn't pack your parachute correctly – but you're better off if someone points it out!


This is another term for "post-game analysis." At MathWorks, we like to end meetings or projects with a brief "retrospective" discussion, during which we analyze what went well, what went poorly, and how we might improve the next such meeting or project.

Paper Prototyping

This is a process for expediting the development of user interfaces (UIs) in software products. Instead of writing code to prototype the UI, simple ink-and-paper, cut-and-paste techniques are used. This leads to a much more rapid development cycle. Paper prototyping is taught in a course that is taken by most developers.