Regardless of the specific methods used, (i.e., Lean, Six Sigma, etc.), the fact is that most improvement initiatives that are aimed at greater efficiency, quality, speed, or customer service have two important things in common:
- They produce some improvement
- Then they peter out…
So much opportunity can be found, just by systematically studying the work flow, gathering the data, and applying basic improvement tools or techniques that it is hard to fail to make at least some gains. But these initial improvements are most often the low-hanging fruit, accomplished without making any fundamental changes in anyone’s lives.
One might expect that once an organization is trained in systematic process improvement and sees some successes the system of improvement would become self-sustaining and even accelerating. Yet this is not the most common outcome… instead, the low hanging fruit is quickly plucked. Pretty soon, the next best opportunity for improvement either encroaches on someone’s turf or challenges someone’s conventional wisdom; or possibly threatens someone’s job security. In other cases, the search for better ways to do the work simply come