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When process improvements fail to stick

“Lean – Six Sigma is 30% systems, 70% people.” 1. What percent of the improvements from your Lean-Six Sigma projects last beyond six weeks? 2. What percent of your Kaizen Events have to be “redone?” 3. Do your methodology metrics (number of Kaizen Events or Six Sigma Projects held this year) look good, but your result metrics (% on time delivery) stay the same or look worse? 4. What percent of Work processes are audited weekly at your location?

If your answers were 30%, Yes, and <50% then it is safe to say there is a real problem. The extra work you expend in correcting these issues adds no value to the customer and is a waste of your time, effort and money.

The next question may be a little harder; Do you actually KNOW the answers to the above questions, or are you relying upon your project managers to report their versions to you?

The Society of Manufacturing Engineers estimates that “95% of Lean applications fail to sustain.” “[when there is minimal employee involvement]…the recommended changes do not stick.” The Toyota Way

The scenario is a common one: after great effort and much time on a Kaizen Event or a Six Sigma project, a process change is designed that delivers better results.

Much celebration and congratulations follow. Six weeks later, it is as if nothing had ever happened. The production team has reverted to the previous process, and the improved results no longer exist. The gains do not sustain. But why?

The major sticking point lies at the very beginning of the work.

To make a change last, it must be acceptable to those that it affects.

If a change is “done to you”, as opposed to “with you” then it is likely to meet resistance and even sabotage by those that it is imposed upon.

Only when your people feel that they have had an opportunity to be involved, to contribute ideas and comments that you honestly acknowledge and use to shape the changes, will a culture of fairness exist that will provide a robust platform for the new ways.

This engagement is the missing piece in most methodologies and is almost always the cause that leads to a failure to sustain.

We have been working for many years now, using a defined psychology driven programme called Team Action Management. (TAM) It is the cultural platform upon which you are able to deliver process and system led improvements using tools such as Lean, Kaizen, 6 Sigma and others.

Simply put, it provides the means to engage at a personal level, all of your staff and stakeholders in the programme of change that is required.

The clue is in the headline – 30% is Systems, 70% is People

By integrating Performance Management into the implementation of Lean and Six Sigma, improvement gains can be sustained. Team Action Management (TAM) is a proven solution for how to make a “people” process improvement onto established process improvement methodologies: Lean and Six Sigma.

It provides a way to systematically add feedback and reinforcement to accelerate and sustain the new process behaviours generated by Lean and Six Sigma projects.

For example, everyone acknowledges that machinery requires a schedule of preventive maintenance. Process behaviours also require a schedule of maintenance. The maintenance consists of feedback and reinforcement. Without it, process behaviours revert back to older, more familiar behaviour patterns (the way we used to do things) and the improved results evaporate. The gains do not sustain.

About TAM UK

Founded in 1995, and headquartered in Chesterfield UK, TAM UK works with a diverse spectrum of clients both private and public sector.

We help accelerate the business and performance of Organisations and Companies by using positive, practical approaches grounded in the science of behaviour and Fairness and engineered to ensure long-term sustainability.

TAM UK supports its clients in accelerating strategy execution while fostering employee engagement and positive accountability at all levels of their organisation.

For more information contact

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