Operations Payoff

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Why Are We Still Failing With Lean?

The other day I looked over a proposal I wrote almost 10 years ago. In it, I quoted an article from the California Management Review: “while the number of tools, techniques and technologies to improve operational performance are growing rapidly… most efforts to use them fail to produce significant results.”  Around that time, I attended an executive program at MIT, whose studies suggested that 70% of companies that tried implementing Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma failed.

These are sobering statistics, and new studies suggest the failure rate is even higher. It’s true that our tools and techniques continue to grow, but have companies really achieved significant results, and if not, why not?

The failures have two elements in common. First, the changes that companies try to make in their operations and supply chain are not linked to goals and strategies. Without a close connection to strategy, executives lose interest, especially when results don’t come quickly. When they become disengaged the initiatives lose momentum.

Second, many companies lack the ability to manage change. Change management isn’t widely taught at universities, and most managers learn through the college of hard knocks. When a change initiative comes along, without broad executive support, managers will run for cover and focus on their day-to-day jobs. This is a good way to miss opportunities for improvement.

Sound strategy tied to the overall goals of the business and company skills in change management will help you avoid becoming another statistic.

© 2013 – Rick Pay – All Rights Reserved


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