So, you’ve got an initiative like lean or six sigma up and running –check. You’ve seen some tangible benefits –check. While it has been harder than expected, you’re still moving forward –check. Senior management just increased your goals well beyond your capabilities –check… whoa, what?
Although the debate continues to rage around the various benefits and pitfalls of continuous improvement initiatives one thing is certain, your business always seems to need more. And try as you might, it gets increasingly difficult to achieve those goals. In my experience, the benefits of continuous improvement tend to naturally asymptote with an invisible ceiling just below the CEO’s expectations.
The ceiling is both natural and insidious. It’s natural in that it’s a common phenomenon associated with the normal lifecycle of any initiative. Like the graphic below indicates, continuous improvement initiatives only take you so far. They clean up, dress up, and improve the current house. But continuous improvement doesn’t really get you a new house. Other transformative approaches (like ThinkWay’s e2e™ approach) are needed to do that.
But it’s also insidious because often I find the businesses themselves are helping to define the height of the ceiling. Yes, they’re part of their own problem. And for the most part, they don’t even realize it.
I have done several value chain innovation (e2e™) assessments now. In the spirit of full disclosure, when I first started doing them, results were mixed. But now after learning more about the ceiling companies run into and improving the methodology for e2e™ execution, I’ve gotten much better. I’ve learned there are four invisible forces trapping value and blocking innovation. The four forces are 1) The Tyranny of Expertise; 2) The Issue of Silos; 3) The Problem of Process; and 4) The Challenge of Culture. You can go here for a brief explanation of each but suffice it to say, if you don’t have a way to address these four forces, it’s likely your results will continue to asymptote just below the CEO’s expectations.
Making value chains more efficient and effective is tough work and requires skill, experience, and a wide array of tools and methods. If you’re going to break through the invisible ceiling, it makes sense to explore new approaches to make that happen. It sure would be nice to meet the CEO’s expectations next time he sets a lofty goal.