Process improvement gone mad

I have recently moved to the east of England (Norwich) and one of the first things I did was join the library. Now, every library I have used had a simple process for borrowing books. The book details are recorded and the return date stamped at the front of the book. Sound straightforward? Well not if a process improvement team gets involved!

Here a new process has been deployed. The book details are recorded and a printed slip with the return date inserted at the front of the book. I asked the librarian, why change a process that works? She said this was to improve the speed of getting books processed. However she thought it slowed things down and a few librarians had resigned in protest. Of course when I got home I had lost the paper slip and had to phone the library to confirm the return date.

This all got me thinking. I bet there are other unsuccessful process improvement projects out there. Projects that make ridiculous improvements or cost more than they save or just get abandoned and people don’t like to talk about them. I imagine even that model of business excellence, GE, has had projects that have been quietly forgotten about. What I thought was, what are the root causes for unsuccessful process improvement projects, the 5-why’s?

What better way to find out than to ask the readers. So I have designed a small online survey that is completely anonymous and allows you to describe an unsuccessful project and why you think it failed. If I get enough responses I will report the findings. Please take a few moments to follow the link below and describe your experiences.

Handpicked Content:   Minitab Webinar: Project Failure

Online Survey Link

Comments 3

  1. Gary Burger

    Many organizations feel that Six Sigma, Lean, and TOC are cure-alls. They fail to see that like any medication there are limits to the application. When selecting a project, an executive team needs to determine what will be gained by "improving" the process. An improvement to one area is of little value if there is a corresponding decrease in another area, especially if the latter is of greater significance. It sounds in your case like the library never heard of the "House of Quality."

  2. Robin Barnwell

    I agree entirely with your comments. What I found so unusual was the apparent absence of benefits and no obvious improvement in productivity. But I am just a customer and there may well be a bigger picture I am not aware of.

    Thanks for completing the survey. Getting some interesting results but I always appreciate more feedback.

  3. Lean Six Sigma Training

    Good post!

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