Why Don’t Old Processes Die?

Have you ever improved a process and were suprised that workers end up doing BOTH the new way and the old way? 

I have seen data that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that a new process has removed frustrating waste and increases value for the customer, but still the old way persists. 

I recently talked with a friend who’s business was acquired by another company five years ago.   My friend’s business was strong in the US while the other company reigned in Europe & Asia.  Seems like a good fit right? 

The company is no longer doing business in USA.  My friend’s opinion: the new company never fully integrated in the five years since the acquisition.  They continued to ride the fence of both their old way of work while adopting the practices of my friend’s business at the same time.

Here are some of the reasons why I think people do not let old processes die:

  1. Leadership Support & Alignment – With all change, leaders need to support improvements and be aligned.  If one leader is perceived to think differently about the new process, workers who want to keep the old process will reach that leader.  Once that happens, you will have people doing both old and new!
  2. Nemawashi Skipped – Consensus was not reached amongst stakeholders and those doing the work. 
  3. No Reinforcement Built Into New Process– I recently saw a great example where 5S was included during of a point improvement project.  Things like shadow boards and having a place for the right tools at the right time will help reinforce people to keep up the new process because it will be convenient.
  4. Failure to “Turn Out the Light”– Once an improvement project becomes part of operations, CLOSE the project.  If a project manager is always working on the same thing, staff never get the impression the change is finished and complete.  Yes, we do continuous improvement but the last go-round is over and the new process is finalized until we revisit later. 

 What other things do you think keep old processes from going away after a change?

My 2009 Hansei: Scarcity inspires creativity and innovation.  How can I help harness that inspiration?

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Filed under Alignment, Business, Communication, Data & Charts, Improve With Lean, Learn Leadership, Project Management

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