Top 10 Reasons Lean Six Sigma Projects Fail

Lean Six Sigma projects can lead to a rewarding experience and immense benefits for an organization; however, not all of them achieve the expected results. A Bain & Company’s survey in 2008 found that 80 percent of 184 companies responding claimed that “Lean Six Sigma efforts are failing to drive the anticipated value” and 74 percent said “they are not gaining the expected competitive edge because they haven’t achieved their saving targets.” In this blog, top 10 reasons of this failure are discussed.

Lack of management support

Support and commitment for a Lean Six Sigma deployment from the leadership of an organization is the key driver for success. Leadership must emphasize the importance of Lean Sigma in all forums. Support should be forthcoming not only from senior leadership, but also from leadership at all levels in the organization. No amount of good intentions, resources, effort or time will make up for missing sustained leadership support. If the company has support from the leadership team the chances of successfully embedding the Lean Six Sigma methodology into an organisation are improved significantly. Sustained effort should be made to keep leadership engaged at all stages in the organization’s Lean Six Sigma journey.

Incorrect Strategy Deployment

A deployment strategy helps to align organizational business goals to expected deployment results and to maintain the sustenance of Lean Six Sigma in the organization. A lack of alignment may cause confusion among the key stakeholders and associates about the value of the entire effort; this gap delays deployment in many organizations

Incorrect Project

A lack of focus on project selection and prioritization can lead to projects that lack data or business focus or projects focused on process areas that are outside both the Green Belt and Black Belts’ realm of control. This results in delayed or scrapped projects, and quick disillusionment among the Green Belts and Black Belts.

Deployment teams must ensure that selected Lean Six Sigma process improvement projects are data-based and focused on business, financial, process and customer goals. They also need to be prioritized properly to ensure these goals are met.

Choosing an inappropriate process

Invariably, most Lean Six Sigma teams want to start with a pilot project that’s not too risky. Unfortunately, they end up majoring in minor things. They don’t get the results required to make a case for Lean Six Sigma in their organisation.

Inappropriate team members

Invariably, leaders try to form a Lean Six Sigma team before they’ve analysed the data to figure out who ought to be on the team. Consequently, the team struggles because they don’t have the right people to solve the problem once it’s been stratified to an actionable level.

Lack of process owner support

If the process owner was not involved in the project from the start because he is busy doing his day job, then the project is doomed to fail. This lack of time could be the very reason why the process owner never implemented the solution. The project team may have followed the DMAIC methodology, but only completed the define, measure, and analyse phases, and never actually made it to the improve or control phases.

Incorrect Scope

Almost invariably, the failure of any Lean Six Sigma project can be traced to a scope that was too broad. Trying to minimize variation in an entire product, for example, is so defocused that little improvement can happen in any part of the product. Concentrating on minimizing the variation in a single critical characteristic of a product, however, allows you to dig deeply enough to discover the real source of improvement. Always err on the side of scoping your projects too small. Improvement is continuous; you can always come back later and do more.

Incorrect or insufficient training

Sometimes projects fail because of insufficient training. The people tasked with training others spend so much time training, they don’t have enough time to practice what they’ve learned and complete a successful project, or prove that the methodology actually works. Other times, process owners are primarily tasked with leading projects, but they might not have been formally trained. As a consequence, they may not feel confident or they lack the specific knowledge to really support the project through to completion.

Another cause of incorrect training is that the importance of “learning by doing” is not always explored during the training. Training may focus too heavily on the theory of a certain methodology, but trainees never actually make a real project a part of their training and hence fail to learn through its completion. Momentum can be lost if trainees don’t ever see the value of completing a real project.

Incorrect Measurement System

Data and measurement are the foundation of Lean Six Sigma. All too often, however, Lean Six Sigma practitioners neglect to check the validity of their measurements. Unknowingly relying on a faulty measurement system is like building a house with a crooked ruler — you won’t get what you thought you were going to get, and you won’t know why.

Always take the time to perform a measurement systems analysis at the beginning of your project. Taking this step saves you from many potential headaches.

Incorrect Implementation

Most companies are trying wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling implementations of Lean Six Sigma. Sadly, this means that 80% of the people are engaged in trying to get less than 20% of the benefit. Wall-to-wall implementations can siphon valuable resources away from satisfying customers, creating new products and exploring new markets.

Too much training; not enough doing! 90% of what you learn in a Lean Six Sigma class is lost if you don’t apply what you’ve learned within 72 hours.


01 Jul 2021

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