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Why Do Continuous Improvement Initiatives Fail to Sustain?

Relying on the group wisdom of working professionals, Torban Rick attempts at his blog to explain why continuous improvement measures consistently fail. The comments cover the gamut of possibilities. Do any of them sound familiar to you?

Stating the Obvious

Tim Rodgers kicks off the forum by stating the obvious (ironically, he picks the lowest hanging fruit) – that continuous improvement initiatives peter out after participants improve that which is in obvious need of improvement. 

It’s Management’s Fault

Greg Hanners opens up the first round of finger-pointing by citing the need for leadership support of CI initiatives, with Geoffrey E. adding the need for more CI support among mid-management. And for Jess Raubenheimer, it’s important to make continuous improvements relevant to the employee’s daily operations, which as Pat Cavanagh notes, involves explaining the “whys” of CI to employees. 

It’s Not Management’s Fault

Alison B. turns the tables, focusing instead on the fact that managers struggle to get employee buy-in for CI. Following that vein, Slawek Mielewczyk indirectly defends management by adding that it is difficult to measure the tangible results of CI. 

Change Resistance

Getting closer to the heart of the matter, Yoke-Yin Purcaro and Nancy Kress point to the powerful presence of change resistance in the organization. Change resistance, by its very nature, goes against the organization’s need for continuous improvement to compete in a constantly changing market. This leads us to the main barrier of CI implementation: workplace culture. 

Cultural Change

As Mark Neild succinctly states, culture eats strategy. Tim James and Scott Guthrie add that a sustaining culture leads to sustaining improvements. Echoing Rodgers, Richard Ottley notes that focusing on the low hanging fruit of ROI distracts management from the tree of cultural change. But the final comment is left to Melinda White, who says:

Continuous improvement shouldn’t be a program – it is a philosophy that needs to be embedded as part of an organisation’s culture.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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