Sustaining Momentum of Process Improvement over Time

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Best Practices
Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

Sustaining Momentum of Process Improvement over Time

Improving business processes using methods like Lean, Six Sigma and Agile often works well initially, however quite often the gains fade very quickly, according to recent research by Holweg and all.
They identified 4 common failure modes:
  1. An initiative fatigue that sets in as leaders fail to provide continued support;
  2. A tool overzeal that seeks to reinvigorate efforts by switching approaches;
  3. Chasing short-term metrics that are misaligned with the purpose of the organization;
  4. Dogmatic implementations that deprive team members of engaging in a meaningful way.
To counter this, following things turned out to be most useful:
  • Maintaining visible support from board members and senior leaders;
  • Consistent measurement and monitoring;
  • Communicating clearly and aligning messages well with the purpose of the organization;
  • Focusing at issues whose easing will clearly benefit employees;
  • Having senior leaders act as coaches.
Source: Matthias Holweg, Bradley Staats and David M. Upton: "Making Process Improvements Stick" (research paper).

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