3 Keys to Avoid Process Improvement Project Failure

3 Keys to Avoid Process Improvement Project Failure

May 14, 2018 | 7:30 pm

Many leaders within service industries invest a ton of time, money, and resources into process improvement projects. Leaders from community foundations, government agencies, nonprofits, and mortgage lenders – to name a few – work hard to improve outcomes. Unfortunately, national research shows that more than half have failed. Keep reading to learn how to avoid being part of this statistic.

These leaders take on process improvement projects with good intentions as they try to overcome the pain points they are experiencing. They are expected to do more with the same resources. Some are experiencing errors or gaps in their service to customers. And quite frankly, many employees are simply burned out, resulting in turnover.  Process improvement is a great tool to help leaders of complex services organizations turn this pain into achievable outcomes.

Achieve Dramatically Improved Results

In its simplest form, process improvement is defined as a change in work steps to improve outcomes. When an end-to-end operations process is looked at with an eye for dramatic improvement, it becomes a process improvement project. When a more complex  process is included in the project, there is a larger potential for improved results. Yet, process improvement projects are risky and frequently fail.

In a ProSci national survey of 150 process improvement projects, results show the majority failed. They found that when leaders rely only on traditional approaches and tools like mapping and brainstorming, the majority of times process improvement projects do not succeed. The lack of proven tools and approaches was a major reason for failure.

If you see pain points you want to solve, process improvement works. When planning to invest in process improvement, you NEED it to succeed.

3 Keys to Help You Avoid Process Improvement Project Failure


We’ll illustrate this through our experience with community foundations.

1.  Utilize proven tools.

Foundations consistently use tools that accomplish the results they need. For example, foundations use proven granting practices to create an outcome in the community. Similarly, process improvement projects succeed when the proven process improvement tools are used.

2. Train your team on these proven tools.

Community foundations need trained resources for key tasks to ensure they are successful. For example, only a trained accountant is hired for an accounting role. The same is true for process improvement skills. Employees will successfully see their process improvement opportunities and solve foundation pain points when they are trained in the proven process improvement tools.

3.  Build process muscle through coaching to achieve success.

Everyday foundation leaders mentor employees until they round that learning curve. Accountants are only allowed to work independently when they prove they are ready. The same is true with the team’s new process improvement skills. As a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, I needed to submit two successful projects before I was certified. Early on, I had several projects that were not successful which could not be submitted.

Process improvement best practices show the need for employees to use these skills at least twice before they are successful and independent in getting great results. Therefore, leveraging a process improvement coach makes your learners successful the first time. They are coached to build process skills, while strengthening their process muscles. – resulting in success and independence.

The Track Record: Process Improvement Project Success

Foundations have achieved impressive results by leveraging proven process improvement tools and approaches. Their employees were trained and coached to dramatically improve these outcomes.

  • Cut their grant operations time by 60%
  • Deliver to customers in half the time.
  • Error free for 3 years.

Case Study: A chief financial officer at a large community foundation saw process improvement projects fail – swirling for months, dying out unfinished or not delivering results. Learn how their most recent improvement project recaptured over 60% of the team’s time and now deliver to the customer faster. Build Improvement Skill-and-Will.

At Innovation Process Design we are experts at helping teams successfully improve process and results. Your team can succeed too. Contact Lee Kuntz to talk about what you’re experiencing and how leaders have solved this pain.

Contact Lee today to discuss your challenge.