Why most process improvement efforts fail

Why most process improvement efforts fail: The levels of change many organisations forget to take care of.

Your project team analyses your business activities and identifies an opportunity for a process improvement to increase performance and as a result, customer satisfaction. Your project manager utilises the 5S Framework to identify and remove waste, for a more organised, safer and efficient workplace environment. The new process policy and steps are written out in great detail and illustrated visually on posters around the workplace, and you engage your team in an interactive workshop to ensure they have the knowledge and skills required to perform the tasks. In doing so, you have addressed the:

  1. physical environment
  2. behaviours
  3. knowledge and capability

Your company has undertaken a comprehensive effort to see a continuous process improvement, BUT your efforts only result in short term performance increases, rather than sustained change.

Where did you go wrong? You employed a systematic tool to sort, set in order, shine, standardise and sustain significant changes to the environment, wrote new policies, and empowered your people to change their behaviours through training…but in only focussing on the areas of change you can measure, you forgot to take care of the intangible levels of change that are necessary to see sustained change.

It is the hidden levels of change that provide motivation and enable a mindset of change.

You must take care of Values and BeliefsIdentity and Purpose (the ‘why’), because the combination of these forms culture; forms mindset. When our people know the ‘why’ of Continuous Improvement, and the why of any given change, you are giving them a reason to subscribe to the change. When they are aware of why the change is important to them, to the organisation, and for the greater good, they are more likely to adopt an identity of someone who is willing to go along with or advocate for the change. This means that their values and beliefs may shift towards the change, and this means your people are more likely to look forward to learning the knowledge and capability of how to implement that change in their behaviours in the workplace, resulting in a greater likelihood of sustained change in the physical environment.

The lesson? We need to work on the invisible and the intangible levels of change, to see sustained change in our visible environment.

This month we were fortunate to host our Foundations of Continuous ImprovementInnovative Talks Workshop with special guests from State Library of Victoria. In our discussions, the importance of attending to the intangible levels of change ‘below the line’ became very apparent, as it is through their uncompromising attention to all levels of change that State Library we able to empower, motivate and successfully change the mindset of their organisation, to achieve significant and sustained improvements. Watch the video to learn more.