Tag Archives: why improvement projects fail

10 Reasons improvement Efforts hit the wall

failing improvement projects

Regardless of methodology or intention, Continuous Improvement efforts frequently lose their momentum, leaving quality and improvement leaders looking for ways to reenergize teams, reengage with sponsors, and resurrect or redirect their projects.

In a poll of business leaders and quality experts, the following “top 10” reasons for what we have often referenced as “discontinuous” improvement are:

  1. Lack of managerial or sponsor support, or failure on their part to commit the right resources
  2. People believe they have “already eliminated all the waste”
  3. The law of diminishing returns… if projects last too long people lose interest
  4. Absence of quick-wins / results; if teams don’t achieve at least some early results, then their focus and effort tends to drop-off
  5. Disengaged culture in which “naysayers” discourage teams
  6. Too many projects / Scope creep
  7. Changes in top management and organizational goals
  8. CI is viewed only as a cost-cutting tool with short-term or ad-hoc focus
  9. CI is viewed as a “side line” job rather than the cultural “way we do things”
  10. People are “stretched” with day-to-day responsibilities and the prevailing culture is one in which the “don’t have time” for improvement projects

3 Reasons Continuous Improvement Efforts Fail

Why Projects Fail…

During one of our Partners In Improvement forums it was noted that in approximately 80% of the cases organizations embark on a path of Continuous Improvement, they abandon the effort prematurely.

The reason? No results.

The Partners went on to the discuss “why” so many CI efforts fail to succeed, and agreed that the following three causes are among the most common:

  1. Lack of buy-in from both managers and participants derails many improvement efforts. Management support is required to free up the resources to work on improvement, without which meetings tend to get pushed out and progress slows. The slower the effort moves, the more likely it becomes that priorities will change, or new opportunities or problems arise that decrease available resources further. When projects fail to produce good results, buy-in deteriorates rapidly. Unless serious intervention counters this adverse reinforcing loop, subsequent efforts become less and less likely to succeed.
  2. Lack of data when defining a project is another common reason for failure. Without data the waste is not adequately quantified, thus increasing the likelihood of working on the wrong things and the likelihood that priorities will shift before the project is complete — leading to no results and subsequent lack of buy-in.
  3. Along similar lines, poor decisions about scope can cause stalls and frustration during implementation and can ultimately result in failure to achieve goals. If the project tackles too much at once, progress will be slow; and if the team substitutes opinions for facts/data about the problem and possible solutions in an effort to accelerate pace, they are likely to make a number of wrong turns — once again slowing progress and bringing the effort to an unsuccessful conclusion.

Fortunately there are some straightforward ways to avoid these three common pitfalls, which we will summarize in our next post.

A Big Challenge to Improvement: Lack of Buy-in X 2

Not long ago our Partners In Improvement forum met to discuss the common causes of failure in Continuous Improvement efforts .

It was noted that when organizations embark on a path of Continuous Improvement, the effort is abandoned within a year or two in a high-percentage of cases.

The reason? No results…

The Partners discussed what can cause improvement projects to fail to achieve their potential. While several challenges were identified, lack of buy-in from both managers and participants was identified as one of the most common reasons improvement efforts get derailed.

Management support is required to free-up the resources to work on improvement, without which meetings tend to get pushed out and progress slows. The slower the effort moves, the more likely it
becomes that priorities will change, or that new opportunities or problems will arise, thus decreasing available resources further.

When projects fail to produce good results, buy-in can deteriorate rapidly at all levels within an organization as well. As people’s interest and confidence levels wane, projects can become “unpopular” or worse, and subsequent efforts become less and less likely to succeed.

In our next post we will share some of remedies our Partners identified for maintaining higher-levels of buy-in for Continuous Improvement throughout an organization.