The five main obstacles to improving operational performance

Blockages to continuous improvement

Whether the issue of understanding why blockages occur when trying to improve, is considered on a personal or an organisational level, these points that are about to be discussed are still valid. They also all collectively amount to the same thing: Not having enough time to improve. Or at least that may be how it seems.

So first, what are the five of the main obstacles we all face when looking to improve operational performance?

  • Fire-fighting: Most of us are pretty good at this. By drafting in extra resources, working longer hours, by pushing something else aside, one way or another, we are all pretty good at averting disasters. However, it is human nature and thus organisational nature that such behaviour be relied upon and sometimes even expected, as and when the same issue arises in the future. We didn’t improve operational performance by fire-fighting and averting disaster, we maintained, almost justified the inefficiency.

  • Work processes: Most of the working population, unless in very high, senior positions, have operational processes thrust upon them. Take it or leave it. That’s how it’s done and adhering to them will be how we are judged, in terms of our operational effectiveness. An employee can hardly be blamed for ‘sticking to the rules’ as to how a product is built, resourced, transported or a service delivered, if what they do, is in the company handbook….and that is further reinforced for those employees

  • Growth: As companies grow, the growing pains start appearing with the stretch that’s happening. It’s incredibly rare that an organisation gets this planned perfectly. In fact as we all now, operational performance (together with quality) is one of the first things to be negatively affected during spikes of growth

  • Unplanned work: This could be linked to the point above or cover for an internal resource issue but most of us have felt the pressure of taking on additional work into our own roles or departments. On an individual basis, the net result is often almost a direct replica of the issues associated with Organisational Growth.

  • Inaccurate Targets: There is a fine art to communicating the most effective targets across a business. Set targets too low and they will help to create a culture of complacency. Set them too high and disengagement, with a dose of resentment sets in.

All of the above obstacles to operational performance improvements have direct impacts on employees time and effectiveness.

Many organisations compound these issues by having no simple and engaging forum, for employees to share their ‘on-the-ground- knowledge and opinions.

And so we move to the crux of the problems….in the common business scenarios involving the above circumstances, the employee plods on inefficiently and the company Leadership spend their time trying to fix the leaks when they occur.


BUT that is where the Paradox has to take over….if key stake-holders don’t find the time to improve, the situation will only become a state of continuous decline.

Lean management expertise is applied by Value Stream Experts in hundreds of organisations beset with such issues, every year.

And we always aim to have helped developed a culture of Continuous Improvement by the time we walk away, by virtue of the significant Lean development of the key teams within the company.

Contact us today if you need support in unravelling your complex and maybe even over-whelming, structure, should you recognise any of the issues noted above.

To kick things off, you will need to open up a regular, engaging opportunity for feedback up the chain from the shop floor, where the real insight sits, in regards to the waste that is occurring every day, within almost every organisation.

#leanexperts #Inefficiency

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