Continuous Improvement Not Continuous?

Why is continuous improvement momentum so difficult to build?

Lean, Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, TQM...efforts start, momentum builds, activities ensue and eventually fade as the tyranny of daily tasks takes back the forefront. Recently I was asked the question “Why is the momentum so hard to build and sustain?” It’s a great question that has seemingly endless responses.

Let’s tackle this issue together using proven continuous improvement problem solving methods: Fishbone diagram, Five Whys, and Seven Ways - why not? Lets see where this leads starting with a potential macro look through the lens of a fishbone.

Look familiar? If these are typical responses to the cause question, and there are likely many more, we should focus this laundry list into possible main causes. The culprits might include:

  • We are too busy to do extra things like CI

  • Process standards stifle my creativity

  • We rely on the project team to do this for us

Applying quick use of the 5 Whys we should have a view of potential root causes. Perhaps something like:

This is a simple view and not meant to be comprehensive or specific to any organization but there may be similarities to your situation.

The next step in the problem solving toolbox tells us to complete a Seven Ways exercise. Brainstorm seven ways to work on improving/eliminating/containing the root level on each of the 5 Whys. In order to proceed with the Seven Ways, we would need to choose the right level of root cause to begin the exercise. Choosing the “right” level is directly relational to the ability of an organization to absorb the change. This is situational and more organization-specific. Therefore I would invite you to try this exercise on your own.

Good luck and keep the pressure manageable, steady and consistent to stay on your continuous improvement journey.

Chris Vogel



Sharing Our Lean and continuous improvement insights through our experience and learning.