Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Continuous Improvement Going Nowhere

Too many companies get on the Continuous Improvement bandwagon (Lean, Six Sigma, etc.) without knowing which parade they're in. They're pretty sure the efforts are going to help them. By golly, it helped Motorola, GE, 3M and others, right?

Often, the smaller business is successful even though the CI efforts are lackluster. Sometimes the business isn't any more successful than before going on the CI parade. The CI efforts are mandated and people grind through the analysis, come up with some solutions and implement a few. The bottom line hardly changes. Quite a few years ago, some guys wrote a book, Quality on Trial, looking for evidence that Total Quality and other efforts were actually producing any results. Too many Baldridge Award winners have gone bankrupt. Too often, CI efforts are just a parade; I've even heard of locations who kicked off their programs with parades and balloons.

Your team will buy into the CI efforts when it's essential to the success of the company. They will wholeheartedly starting finding ways to eliminate waste and reduce variation without any JAA (jingoism and acronyms) because it's important to their collective job security. If you can say and show that without CI the company fails, you'll have everyone clamoring to start projects. If you say it's important and CI fails, but the company continues on, even growing, then your people will know they're wasting their time. And so are you trying to whip a plow horse into a thoroughbred race. (Sorry, I shifted from parades to horse races.)

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