I am consistently seeing the statistic that 75 percent of all process improvement efforts fail. Why such a high rate of failure? Part of the problem is the tendency for management to put off the start of the improvement efforts. The reasons for it run the gamut covering a wide spectrum. The purpose of this segment of the TLS Continuum series is to consider some of those reasons and why we don’t jump into the process.
Reason #1: The solutions are not the way we do things in this organization
This failure rate can be found in the failure to execute. We talk a good game about improving the organization but when it comes down to the basics, we are stuck in the ways we have always resolved problems in the past. The old ways are not the right solution for this exact time. As we stated in an earlier segment in this series, we understand that every organization has its set of values. I have no problems with corporate values as long as they are based in legitimate values. What is a problem is when these values stand in direct competition to the organization succeeding in responding to issues confronting the processes. What typically happens is that the upper management states that while they understand the issues and the problems, our organization can’t undertake that particular solution because that is just not how we do things around here. The result is that in the name of the organization we avoid resolving the issues that are costing the organization monies in terms of nonconformance requirements.
Reason #2: Everyone is not on board
Process improvement fails because management has failed to ensure that everyone is on board. The process requires that the organization develop a solid communication program that relates the problem and solutions to the lives of each member of the organization from the C-Suite to Office floor. Each member needs to understand in real terms how these proposed solutions and changes to the organization will directly affect them. What does their life look like now, what does it look like after the changes and what does it look like if no changes are undertaken. The idea of organizational quality must be ingrained in everyone as a standard operating procedure. The organization must understand that this is not another flavor of the day but is now a standard part of the culture. The organization must walk the quality walk and talk the quality talk. As Philip Crosby stated in his book Quality without Tears, quality is not a program it is a process.
Reason #3: Cross-functional teams not created
Do you still have fellow workers when asked to undertake a task respond by saying “That is not my job?” If you answer is yes or you don’t know then you are either in a state of denial or you have not looked. That is not my job is not an acceptable answer in the quality process effort. Quality is everyone’s job from the C-Suite to the custodial staff; from your stakeholders to your customers. If you have the desire to succeed you need to have a cross-functional involvement of the organization. Continuous process improvement is contingent on the involvement of every individual in the process. The process is fueled by the input of ideas from the real organizational experts – those on the front line.
Reason #4: Lack of employee engagement
This reason for process improvement failure effort comes from management involvement primarily. This is due to the prevalence of management to introduce the new system of the only to come up with a new system of the day next week or next month. The result is employees never become fully engaged in the process. It is their belief that why become involved when the programs change with the wind direction.
Reason #5: Fear of the unknown
I get it. We are brought up to be risk adverse. We attend our professional association meetings and we are constantly presented with strategies that are supposed to keep us out of court. The problem here is that organizations tend to try and play it safe and don’t want to take chances. We don’t take the necessary actions to change the corporate culture because we fear that we will be held accountable for failure. It is this fear of the unknown that causes process improvement efforts to fail.
Rule # 6: Lack of true management support
The number one reason that brings about failed improvement efforts is that management may talk the talk but they do not walk the walk. We talk quality to the organization but then approve sending product, which is inferior to the customer’s requirements. We talk quality but then let inferior materials come into the organization to complete a customer request. If the organization sees that quality is a second class item to the management it will become a second class item to the employees too.