Yesterday’s WSJ has a great article on the failure of process improvement projects based on a study that was performed at an aerospace company. They basically concluded that these projects go through an initial period of great success, and then gradually revert to the same (or worse) performance than at the beginning of the project.
The big take away from my perspective is twofold:
- None of these “magic methodologies” will solve your problems in the long term if they are applied like pixie dust, then essentially left to wither. Just as major surgery might take a day or two, but require a year of physical therapy, your initial intervention, regardless of the methodology used, will likely need months or years of care and feeding for the changes to become permanent.
- Related to the above, you simply cannot continue compensating and evaluating your people in the same manner after launching a process improvement project or they will return to their old way of working. If I provide no incentive to embrace process change (either monetary, job advancement, a reporting change, or more time dedicated to the project) then any changes will gradually regress.
You can find the full text of the article here: WSJ Where Process-Improvement Projects go Wrong