The topic of business process improvement projects comes up often when we team with our mid-market manufacturing clients. In today’s competitive manufacturing sector, it makes sense for an organization to improve business processes as the foundation for improving the performance and overall bottom line of the business.
But success can be elusive. In today’s competitive and volatile economy, the manufacturing companies we talk to are pressured to balance business process (BPI) initiatives against challenging production schedules and workloads.
We always make the case that BPI should be woven into ERP selection and ERP implementation. We know this because we have seen many organizations improve the efficiency and success of BPI by improving the efficiency of internal and external teams, especially during ERP selection and implementation.
A previous blog post looked at the tools available to manage business process improvement projects. Today, we look at some of the challenges that can limit BPI project outcomes.
Why Business Process Improvement Initiatives Fail
BPI programs often start quite effectively, with excitement and focus. But typically they lose steam or worse yet, fail to have a lasting impact as participants gradually lose motivation and fall back into old habits.
Initiatives are usually all about the techniques. The team is quick to implement tools such as Six Sigma to tackle problems such as production defects, and lean manufacturing to remove processes that don’t add value to the final product. But again, very often, improvements don’t stick.
We see seven common pitfalls plaguing business process improvement projects. These observations are based on our own experience in business process improvements, and also with insight from the business leader John P. Katter and his writings about Leading Change: Why Transformation Projects Fail.
- Allowing too much complacency – very often the BPI team has not established, or proven to the rest of the organization, a sense of urgency for the BPI initiative.
- Failure to create a powerful guiding collation – executive sponsorship is key to success. If there is not strong executive management support and sponsorship, the groups left holding the bag – including business process owners, the IT department and functional area managers– feel like they heading upstream into a long and difficult effort.
- Underestimating the power of vision – here again, if all the parties share the vision and goal of the initiative, success is more likely.
- Under-communicating the vision – Communication and education is key for success of business process improvement.
- Failure to create short-term wins – it’s difficult to sustain motivation if any gains are a long way out. Instead, empower employees for broad-based action to see immediate improvements.
- Declaring “victory” too soon.
- Neglecting to firmly anchor the changes in the corporate culture.
A Further Look
We will continue to address BPI project team strategies and best practices in upcoming blog posts.
To gain more insight into effective business improvement programs, download the free white paper A Roadmap for Business Process Improvement.