Why do Improvement Projects fail ?

Am I right in my assumptions why Improvement Projects Fail?  (or don’t achieve what they set out to).

A review of your processes finds that an area for improvement is found – you look at all the tools and find you need (for argument’s sake)  six-sigma to be used. But you have heard others say it is all hype, looks good but won’t work.

After being in a number of industries, with a variety of improvement projects commissioned, I have found that most improvement projects really are bound to fail.

The reason – people. It may be because pressure was put on the project manager to meet unreasonable timelines, or the scope of the project only looked at the “opportunity” and not the big picture, maybe the manager/controller is not conversant with the process, or then again it may be because the staff did not want it to work (for whatever reason).

I believe that any improvement project must be wider in scope. If the improvement is to shorten Tact-time the high-level project should include the human aspect, not just the technical or process training but how the staff feel towards the improvement, are there mitigating circumstances why it was not improved by the staff previously.

Improvement involves change, change involves uncertainty. Most people do not like uncertainty, therefore change and so improvement does not always equate to “better” in the eyes of those doing the work.

Within people management is the following process to monitor performance:

  1. Corporate Strategy and Values
  2. Agree, Authorities and Accountabilities
  3. Design and review KPIs and behaviours
  4. Set targets
  5. Establish performance commitments
  6. Track performance /reporting
  7. Review performance (Feedback)
  8. Manage outcome

This is the same process used for any system, within any business, albeit using different names possibly. The task is really to ensure that the project is looked at from the next level up so all contingencies and opportunities (and risks) can be taken into account, specifically:

  • The Materials (The input)
  • The Process (What happens to it – and the area most often reviewed)
  • The Equipment (What is used to make it)
  • The Systems (What is used to control/monitor it)
  • The Location (Where it is made) AND
  • The People (Who pulls it all together – bottom to top)

It always ends up with the people. They can make it or break it, sometimes they have even fixed it before there is intervention! But if all points above or reviewed and realised, the total potential success is huge, failure is well, failure.

Basic questions that should always be asked for any change or opportunity:

  • Can we get rid of it
  • Can it be done simpler
  • Can it be done differently

Only once all the questions have been asked can the appropriate improvement be put in place.