The Number 2 Reason Why Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, And Other Continuous Improvement Projects Fail


Any change project, or any change we want to make in an organisation will involve work. As a result of a project launch or kick off training, the organisation will make commitments to implement the new philosophy.

New activities will need to be undertaken. There will be action plans, responsibilities, and committed dates. All is good, people are enthusiastic and there is a positive sense that this new approach will make a positive difference for the individuals and the business. We have used the magic wand to point to people around the organisation and given them new jobs to do, possibly new roles to perform. We may even have an organisation chart that shows that someone is now an ‘Improvement Champion’, ‘Project Champion’, ‘Lean Facilitator’ or some other title. They have been touched by the Magic Wand!

Here Is Where The Problem Begins

Most of our employees already have a full list of things they need to do and responsibilities they need to perform. If you are unsure about this, go and ask them! Many people already feel that they are not completing all of the jobs they are already supposed to be doing, even before the new round of tasks and possibly roles were allocated. ‘Work Smarter’ we are all exhorted to do. For most people it just feels like ‘Work Harder’ because they are not trained or equipped to ‘Work Smarter’. The effect we produce is to overload people even further than they already feel. I am not talking about either my or your perception of the reality of over/under work, I am talking about theirs. Their perception of being overloaded already and having you throw more work on top of them is what counts.

People then become further and further behind. Management becomes frustrated with the slow or non-existent progress. Project reviews become drawn out and painful events that tar the project with negativity. The desired results which are so close and easy to achieve seem to be elusive. No one makes any more money. The project slowly dies.

What Do We Do Differently?

A. We have a long list of things we need to do to START implementing the improvements. We also have a long list of things that we are already doing. We need to create a list of things that people can STOP doing so as to create capacity for them to implement the changes. There will be a number of tasks that can be eliminated/streamlined/automated out of most people’s days if you really help them to work through it. This helps them to feel (that word again) that they have the time to implement the changes and that the new program is not just overloading them even further.

B. We all have only 24 hours in a day. What we do in that time is up to us. I do a survey of people at the events I speak at and 60%+ do not use any form of diary or time management system. Another 30%+ use a diary to capture appointments only. Only about 1% use a diary to schedule important time to work on business issues. I have not met anyone who has put their hand up to say that they take time to reflect on the day’s activities and to learn what they can do to improve (except for my clients who have been trained in using a time management system). This means that people have tremendous wasted capacity in their days that can be deployed to focus on critical improvement tasks. Usually this can be done in addition to their normal key duties and them having a less stressful and shorter working week. Training in Time Management, and then having management follow through that the system is being used and has become routine, is a massive opportunity. Its an opportunity for you to improve your business. The follow on from this is that the chances of your improvement program staying alive and delivering timely results for you and your business is greatly improved.

Please feel free to include your thoughts below.

Comments are welcome and encouraged.

Have An Awesome Day!


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One Response to “The Number 2 Reason Why Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, And Other Continuous Improvement Projects Fail”

  1. Chandra says:

    Jason, good information. Thank you

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