John Crossan | Manufacturing Ownership Blog
Why Improvement Efforts Fail PDF Print E-mail
Why Do Improvement Efforts Fail? Or Just Not Sustain?
There are many reasons, but those most often stated, are “lack of commitment” and not “following the process”.
But why is there “lack of commitment”, and why aren’t “processes followed”?

Here are a few of the reasons that I’ve seen:

Too Much Focus On Tools Vs. People.
Analytical Tools and Improvement Process Steps are important, but people are more important. And it’s not about "selling" them, or using “change management” tools to have them accept whatever the “really smart” people have come up with. It’s about involving them (all of them) and having them own the process.

Communication Not Emphasized, Structured.
Without communication, disruptive, damaging paranoia develops between workgroups, between shifts, between departments, between individuals, etc, that destroys involvement and ownership.
Casual, now and again, conversations, and major presentations are only a small part of what it takes. Communication has to be structured and orchestrated, everyday routine, and flowing both ways.

Not Knowing And Respecting What Is Already In Place.
Every organization does some things well, and the people there have pride in their particular organization (even despite what they might tell you).
To ignore this is insulting and arrogant. Too many times  the “Everything here is wrong" attitude is evident  (and even sometimes outright stated) by program “experts”. Setting up “negative waves” like this never helps. Use what’s in place as a start.

Developing the Elite vs the Majority.
Improvement is an “everyone” thing. It's too easy to just work with the bright, energetic people and count on them to carry it all.
But most people are hesitant or unwilling to accept what they haven’t had some involvement in developing, or improving. And  besides this is ignoring a huge pool of capability
Everybody brings something to the party, but may be unwilling to share for many reasons. Their past ideas have been criticized and not welcomed. There are peer pressure isssues, There are trust issues. Etc, etc. But sincere, routine involvement efforts can overcome these.

Improvement Events Vs Routine Improvement.
Big events are good at generating interest and knocking out a lot of work in a short time.
But the heart and soul of sustaining improvement is getting a solid everyday routine process to have everyone continually dealing with the many, many, many small opportunities.

Focusing On Solving Specific Issues Vs Developing People.
It’s just too easy to get absorbed in solving specific issues and using specific problem solving techniques vs. using the issue solving process as a way to develop people.
But there will always be plenty of issues and opportunities to deal with, the scarcer commodity is the capability to deal with them, and even scarcer, the ready motivation to do it.


  1. Continuous Improvement just like giving care to a baby by the doctor till he become adult. During this journey what corporate generally miss that…seldom its but obvious failure... a] missing ownership culture by the employee b] improvements task assigned to wrong hands c] improvements seen as failure by predecessor d] successor's un-professional approach in task g] missing top mgmt pull action in the subject line A] So first try to find right doctors internally, if not available B] Outsource it to doctors externally C] TREAT entire exercise as unique experience between "Baby-Doctors-Others" Any further assistance feel free to catch me on… P.K. Singh a supply chain PROBLEM SOLVER
  2. The article very clearly eleoborates the topic. To my mind, the most important area which people driving the improvement process misses is the process of managaing change. Improvement efforts are nothing but a change, which needs to driven very - very carefully with complete commitement of the person driving. I have seen many intelligent ideas getting rejected by people, simply becouse enough care has not been taken to ensure the people involvement and leaders themselves not displaying their personal commitment to it.
  3. Very eloborate article, i fully agree to above. To me following issues need more attention of the leaders driving change. Process improvement drives are also a type of change: 1. Personal commitment of leaders driving change. they should demonstrate their commitment 2. Ability and emphasis on ensuring people participation. 3. Ability to be flexible enough to accomodate people sentiments, yet firm enough to drive the process improvement towards the aspired targets