Continuous Improvement

Why Do Continuous Improvement Initiatives Fail?

by Joe Aherne

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Continuous Improvement (CI) often known as Kaizen is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, processes and way of working. The improvement(s) can either be incremental over time or a one-time breakthrough. Most CI projects launch with enthusiasm and even show great progress. However, they quickly fizzle out.

The following outlines some of the key reasons why CI initiatives fail:

1. Lack of Stakeholder Support

So many stakeholders need to be engaged for CI initiatives to be a success. Often there is lack or inadequate support from senior stakeholders thus limiting the resources needed to start and/or sustain the CI initiatives. Lack of support from middle management results in ambiguity for employees thus preventing them from carrying out CI initiatives properly. Last but not least, lack of engagement from front line employees’ due to lack of clarity and enthusiasm results in them not adopting the change thus leading to failure of the CI initiatives.

2. Relevance not Clear

When people do not see how CI initiatives are relevant to their daily work it makes it hard for them to fully buy in. The confusion employees have as to why change is necessary results in CI initiatives failing. This is why it is of utmost importance for organizations to inspire their employees, make the changes relevant and show how the CI initiatives will enhance working experience. After all, why should employees commit to CI initiatives when they don’t understand how they are relevant to their work and the organization as a whole?

3. Insufficient Communication

Continuous Improvement initiatives involve a change in how people think and do their work. For that reason, it is impossible to have any improvement(s) without change. As a result of the changes, many processes are affected, altering job routines and the operating procedures. To ensure success, it is important to not only give out information but to get through to the affected parties. Most times unclear and/or little information about the new changes is shared to the bottom line, resulting in lack of clarity ultimately leading to failure.

To sustain CI initiatives, the project outcome has to be relevant to the stakeholders to keep them engaged, inspired and energized. New changes have to be communicated sufficiently by discarding obsolete forms and updating procedures. This turns off any old systems so people cannot revert to the “old way” thus making “New” the routine.

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Joe Aherne

CEO of Leading Edge Group

Joe qualified as a Certified Public Accountant in 1982. It was a decision that reaped great benefits for Joe, providing him with an international recognized qualification which allowed him to follow in his father and grandfathers’ footsteps who had both worked and lived abroad. Having qualified as a CPA, Joe took up financial positions in the Middle East and UK.

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