Integrative Improvement Blog

The integrative improvement blog discusses and provides commentary on the latest topics in the business performance improvement sector.


10 tell-tale signs your CI initiatives are losing steam

10 tell-tale signs your CI initiatives are losing steam

Like many weight-loss plans, continuous improvement initiatives often start off well, generating excitement and great progress, but all too often fail to have a lasting impact as participants gradually lose motivation and fall back into old habits.

Equally, when confronted with increasing stress over time, these programmes react in much the same way a metal spring does when it is pulled with increasing force — they progress through ‘stretching’ and ‘yielding’ phases before failing entirely.

Following are 10 of the more familiar tell-tale signs of faltering improvement initiatives:

  1. Performance improvement has been sporadic and in isolated pockets across the business. These have not transferred to the P&L or balance sheet.
  2. Projects and performance improvement are not sustainable. Organisational capability is not developed.
  3. There are multiple projects that are not being ‘connected’ to create sustainable business capability.
  4. Practices are project-based rather than process-based. Improvement is left to a few experts, and the shop floor is not engaged.
  5. Functional improvements (maintenance, quality, S&OP, etc.) and methodology-based initiatives (Lean, Six Sigma, HPWT, etc.) are not integrated. Often Lean, Six Sigma, etc. are also driven as different initiatives.
  6. The plants are in different stages of maturity. One size does not fit all.
  7. Leadership has a vision of a future state but no way of getting there. This creates frustration in the organisation.
  8. Lack of standardisation means each plant is interpreting requirements. New plant managers result in new interpretation or new methodology.
  9. There is an absence of clear management principles that result in cyclical reorganisation: centralised versus decentralised; functional versus process.
  10. There is no system or solution in place to address the above.

Integrative improvement — a solution with interconnected purpose

The pursuit towards operational excellence to date has been characterised by functional improvements and project-based methodologies such as Six Sigma and Lean. Yet functional excellence and pockets of Lean do not create the organisational capability required to change operational competence, particularly when applied in a global context. There are simply too many intricate process interdependencies across the end-to-end value chain.

integrative improvement system

The problem, to a large extent, is that we have not made enough breakthroughs since those methodologies were created. In fact, we have become so heavily reliant upon these methodologies that we sometimes forget to use good judgement and common sense. Read the blog post, An integrative route to business transformation, to see why.

A major factor affecting the deployment of long-term continuous improvement initiatives today is the fundamental change taking place in the way organisations manage and execute work. The challenge is to provide a holistic and integrated set of work packages that allows each and every part of the organisation to execute the many pieces of work in a synchronised manner — transforming the entire organisation towards process-based excellence.

This disruptive shift simultaneously makes continuous improvement efforts more important while rendering some traditional approaches ineffective. As a result, companies are compelled to adapt how they embed continuous improvement within their organisational cultures.

Developing an integrative improvement capability will help with such a transformation. Interestingly, this calls for application of many of the tried and true techniques like Lean in some areas of the supply chain that, for many, would be a stretch to consider. Even today, otherwise very competent managers still think that Lean and Six Sigma and the like only have application on the production floor.

What they need to realise is that operational excellence is a mindset, not a methodology. It is the relentless pursuit of finding ways to improve performance and profitability. It is finding money and performance boosts in areas where organisations don’t normally look. That’s why it’s time to break this cycle of birth-death improvement programmes and integrate improvement permanently into the cultural fabric of your organisation.

DOWNLOAD The Definitive Guide to Integrative Improvement now to ensure a sustainable transformation to a world class organisation.

About TRACC
The TRACC framework helps organisations build standardised and integrated good practice and performance capacity across their Plan, Source, Make and Deliver functions. Simultaneously it accelerates their collaboration and alignment capacity to build world class end-to-end value chains, enabling the organisation itself to become the ultimate source of sustainable competitive advantage.
Sign up to our monthly TRACC Community newsletter for CI insights, interviews and news!