7 Deadly Sins of Continuous Improvement

Every organization starts its continuous improvement journey with enthusiasm, excitement, and the best intentions. After assessments are completed and a vision for the future is established, organizations can still stumble when implementing their new Lean transformation and fall victim to one (or more) of the seven deadly sins of continuous improvement.


Resist these seven sins of continuous improvement and prevent your CI transformation from becoming HELL.


7. Too much, too soon

When an organization launches too many initiatives too early or all at once, the resulting chaos causes management and staff alike to rebel.


6. Lean vs. operations

After a year (or more) into the Lean transformation, it is easy for everyday operational demands to start taking precedence and as a result, Lean fades away losing most or all progress.


5. Utilizing just one tool

Using a single tool is one of the most common reasons for a Lean culture failure. There is nothing wrong with 5S, SMED, or other Lean tools when used as part of an overall Lean strategy. The problem occurs when just a single tool is sold as a methodology for establishing a Lean culture. ​


4. Train and wave goodbye

An unrealistic notion is that employees can become Lean experts in 21 days or less.

One way to ensure that Lean runs aground in an organization is to cut ties completely with experienced practitioners. It is possible that the provided training is mismatched for users, identifying a strong case for a strategic relationship with a professional Lean consultancy. ​


3. Tools over culture

The tool-over-culture approach (tools applied without any regard to the cultural aspects of Lean transformation) is a one-way ticket to failure.  The Lean transformation journey is more about culture than tools, people than process, and self-motivation than incentives.  ​​

Any Lean transformation plan must have an objective and a plan to win the hearts and minds of all staff in the organization. This ensures each person willingly lends their intelligence and experience to the continuous improvement cause. ​​


2. Exciting chaos

Exciting chaos occurs when Lean tools and practices are introduced to parts of a facility, and the teams are left to decide which existing processes to “mend”. Essentially, it’s Lean without a plan. ​​

Foundational work with value stream mapping can offer a strategy and framework to implement kaizen improvements/activities in key areas. ​​


1. Executive disconnect

The 3 most important keys to a successful organizational Lean transformation: ​​

  1. ​Senior Management Commitment​​
  2. Senior Management Commitment​​
  3. Senior Management Commitment​





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