The Common Obstacles to Sustaining a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Many books focus on the tools needed for for process control and continuous improvement, but the latest work by Philip Gisi -- entitled Sustaining a Culture of Process Control and Continuous Improvement: The Roadmap for Efficiency and Operational Excellence -- moves beyond this limited view and focuses on the daily work routines necessary to maintain and sustain these activities as part of a Lean process and management mindset. This past month, I spoke with Philip and asked him: "What are the common obstacles to sustaining a culture of continuous improvement? How can we overcome these problems?” Here is his complete answer:

A culture of continuous improvement is based on carefully defined operating standards, organizational work routines, and visualization of key performance indicators. The ability to sustain a culture of continuous improvement is rooted in the way an organization is structured (standards and procedures), the discipline they exhibit in executing their work routines and how effective they are at hold employees accountable to their commitments.  Let’s briefly consider the impact of structure, discipline, and accountability in sustaining a culture of continuous improvement.

Organizational Structure
If you don’t have systems that promote the right behaviors, you are unlikely to get what you expect.  

Look at the work habits, attitudes and engagement of employees, if you don’t like what you see, ask:
       Do the behaviors of employees reflect the principles of the organization?
       Are there methods and procedures in place that align with these principles and, if so, are they clearly defined?
       If followed, will the methods and procedures generate desired results?
       Do employees effectively implement the methods and procedures?

Discipline is a mindset which stems from a commitment of employees to execute their roles and responsibilities as key contributors to organizational success. Management must ensure the right systems are in place to promote behaviors expected to achieve ideal results while employees must exhibit the discipline required to follow and improve standards, procedures, and work routines designed to realize and continuously enhance output performance.

Management has the responsibility to monitor, control, and improve organizational systems with the support of all employees.  This requires continuous verification that processes are executed properly while corrective action and employee coaching occurs when deviations from standards are detected. In short, successful organizations have documented systems in place that align with their strategic goals and produce desired results when executed as intended.  

What has your experience been with sustaining continuous-improvement initiatives? What are your thoughts on Philip Gisi's ideas for overcoming common obstacles?