John Lewis
January 20, 2017

7 Reasons Why You Don’t Need a Continuous Improvement Program

It always astounds me when I walk into a large business, even many with a billion dollars or more in annual sales, and discover that they don’t have any kind of formal continuous improvement program.

The only explanation I can come up with is that they’ve been so financially successful, and so wildly profitable, that they haven’t needed one. Yet.

You have to wonder at the millions of dollars they’ve been leaving on the table every year. Dollars that could increase earnings and be returned to investors. Dollars that could be used to make acquisitions, or upgrade equipment, or train employees. Dollars that could be invested anywhere to help the company maintain its edge over competitors and grow even faster. As obvious as such benefits seem, I figured there must be some other reasons why upper management doesn’t believe continuous improvement is important.


Upon further reflection, here’s what I came up with.

You Don’t Believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics

The second law of thermodynamics states that entropy of an isolated system always increases over time. In business entropy describes the inevitable, gradual decline into disorder. Whether you’re making aerospace parts or providing engineering services, if your organization is not improving, it’s falling apart.

You Learned Nothing in History Class

Up through the 1970s, General Motors and other staid American corporations set the standard for how to manage a business. Central control and “management by objectives” were the key elements of a business system that worked well enough. Then, by driving waste out of business processes, engaging workers’ minds, and fostering a flexible workforce, Toyota transformed the competitive landscape. That transformation has not stopped.

You Don’t Believe There Will Ever Be Another Downturn

In October 2009 I visited a manufacturer of business jets as part of the process for my company becoming a supplier. The factory couldn’t keep up with demand and rivets were flying everywhere. The next week everything stopped. Banks would no longer loan money for business aircraft, and customers started canceling orders. Fortunately, the firm had a top-to-bottom CI initiative in place. The crash led to some painful layoffs and difficult years but the company survived.

Download: Has Your Continuous Improvement Program Gone from the Five Whys to Why Bother?

Your Company Doesn’t Compete Globally

In a global market everyone is out to take your business! Fluctuating foreign exchange rates, labor costs and shipping rates are constantly changing the sourcing equation. In the 1980s through the early 1990s, with the decline in global trade barriers, manufacturing moved to Japan and Hong Kong. Then it moved to Mexico, China and Eastern Europe. Economic changes, new technology and continuous improvement are now reshoring some of the work back to North America.

New Government Regulations Don’t Have an Impact on Your Company

Emissions rule changes, minimum wage increases, OSHA enforcement actions, and other arbitrary regulatory burdens can stifle U.S. manufacturers’ ability to grow and flourish. This year the federal government is promulgating over 4,000 new regulations. The states are adding to that burden. Driven largely by the mandatory minimum wage increase, a client in California is pushing hard to improve its production processes and remain an American manufacturer to avoid moving work to China.

Your Customers Are Lowering Their Expectations

I can’t think of a customer segment that isn’t demanding faster service and more variety. In a society that gets upset at slow internet speeds, managing and exceeding customer expectations is paramount. I did some work with a heavy truck manufacturer that excelled on the product variety front, but struggled with speed. As part of their sales process they brought in customers and showed them what they were doing to improve and speed up their manufacturing processes. By managing customers’ expectations and driving lead times down by a third, the company increased sales and market share significantly.

Your Costs of Doing Business Are Going Down

As the former owner of a tier one aerospace manufacturer, I can tell you from personal experience that the cost of raw materials, labor, outside processes, power and transportation costs NEVER go down. Sure, they fluctuate, but the general trend is always up. At the same time OEMs are always asking for price concessions (see number 6 above) helping to further squeeze margin out of your products. Driving waste out of your manufacturing processes is a necessity not just to make a profit, but to stay in business.

The point here, of course, is that continuous improvement is essential to driving business growth and protecting earnings in a highly competitive world market. Even we CI consultants must constantly evaluate and improve our client services. TBM’s focus in the early 90s on lean transformation has evolved and improved with our customers’ needs for help sustaining their progress, managing growth, integrating acquisitions, and streamlining their supply chains. That continual growth and improvement never stops and is what makes our work so satisfying and rewarding!

DOWNLOAD PAPER: Has Your Continuous Improvement Program Gone from the Five Whys to Why Bother?

About John Lewis

A senior executive with over twenty-five years of experience bringing innovative solutions to unstructured problems. Throughout his career, John has provided superior leadership, team building project management and excellent communications. He has a proven track record in maximizing profit through cost reduction and streamlining operations with deep experience in turn around and startup leadership roles. He spent the first half of his career at AlliedSignal taking on progressively responsible roles in engineering, cell design, cell management, and remanufacturing. Most recently, John served as the CEO of Lewis Aerospace, an established provider of manufacturing, repair and overhaul to clients like Honeywell and Boeing.

The Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards

The Largest Leadership-Level Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Event



Proqis Digital Virtual Conference Series

View our schedule of industry leading free to attend virtual conferences. Each a premier gathering of industry thought leaders and experts sharing key solutions to current challenges.

Download the most comprehensive OpEx Resport in the Industry

The Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Industry Awards Video Presentation

Proqis Events Schedule

Proqis Digital

Welcome to BTOES Insights, the content portal for Business Transformation & Operational Excellence opinions, reports & news.
Access all 75 Award Finalist Entires
Subscribe to Business Transformation & Operational Excellence Insights Now
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics-2
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics (2)-1
ATTENDEE - Proqis Digital Event Graphics (1)-1

Featured Content

  • Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Technology & Communications: IBM
  • Best Achievement of Operational Excellence in Oil & Gas, Power & Utilities: Black & Veatch
  • Best Achievement in Cultural Transformation to deliver a high performing Operational Excellence culture: NextEra Energy
Operational Excellence Frameworks and Learning Resources, Customer Experience, Digital Transformation and more introductions
  • Intelligent BPM Systems: Impact & Opportunity
  • Surviving_the_IT_Talent_deficit.png
  • Six Sigma's Best Kept Secret: Motorola & The Malcolm Baldrige Awards
  • The Value-Switch for Digitalization Initiatives: Business Process Management
  • Process of Process Management: Strategy Execution in a Digital World

Popular Tags

Speaker Presentation Operational Excellence Business Transformation Business Improvement Insights Article Continuous Improvement Process Management Business Excellence process excellence Process Optimization Process Improvement Award Finalist Case Study Digital Transformation Leadership Change Management Lean Enterprise Excellence Premium Organizational Excellence Lean Enterprise Lean Six Sigma Execution Excellence Capability Excellence Enterprise Architecture New Technologies Changing & Improving Company Culture Agile end-to-end Business Transformation Execution & Sustaining OpEx Projects Culture Transformation Leadership Understanding & Buy-In Lack of/Need for Resources Adapting to Business Trends Changing Customer Demands Failure to Innovate Integrating CI Methodologies Lack of/Need for Skilled Workers Lack of/Need for Support from Employees Maintaining key Priorities Relationships Between Departments BTOES18 RPA & Intelligent Automation Live Process Mining BTOES From Home Cultural Transformation Financial Services Customer Experience Excellence Process Automation Technology Healthcare iBPM Healthcare and Medical Devices Webinar Culture Customer Experience Innovation BTOES Video Presentations Exclusive BTOES HEALTH Strategy Execution Business Challenges Digital Process Automation Report Industry Digital Workplace Transformation Manufacturing Supply Chain Planning Robotic Process Automation (RPA) BPM Automation IT Infrastructure & Cloud Strategies Artificial Intelligence Business Process Management innovation execution AI Lean Manufacturing Oil & Gas Robotic Process Automation IT value creation Agility Business Speaker Article Systems Engineering RPAs Insurance Process Design Digital Speaker's Interview data management Intelligent Automation digital operations Six Sigma Awards thought leaders BTOES Presentation Slides Transformation Cloud Machine Learning Data Analytics Digital Transformation Workplace Banking and Capital Markets Data Finance Professional Services Education IT Infrastructure IT Infrastructure & Cloud Strategies Live Blockchain Interview Solving Cash Flow with AI BTOES White Paper investment banking Analytics Insight BTOES19 Consumer Products & Retail Enterprise Agile Planning Government Operational Excellence Model Project Management Algorithm Automotive and Transportation Banking Business Environment Digital Bank Enterprise architecture as an enabler Hybrid Work Model Primary Measure of succes Relationship Management Sales business expansion revenue growth Adobe Sign Agile Transformation CoE Delivery solution E-Signatures Electricity Global Technology HealthcareTechnologies Innovation in Healthcare Reduce your RPA TCO Transportation Accounts Receivable (AR) Big Data Technology CORE Cloud Technology Cognitive learning Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) Logistics Services Operational Excellence Example Risk Management business process automation transformation journey Covid-19 Data Entry Digital Experience Digital Network Digital Network Assistant (DNA) Digitization Drinks Effective Change Leaders HR Internet Media NPS Net Promoter Score Program Management Portal (PgMP) Sustainability TechXLive The Document is Dead The New Era of Automation Automated Money Movement Banking & Financial Services Biopharmaceutical Blue Room Effect Building Your Future Workforce in Insurance Business Process Governance Capital Market Creative Passion Digital Transformation Workplace Live Digital Workforce Digitalization ERP Transformation Finance Global Operations (FGO) Financial Services Software Frameworks Hoshin Planning Human Capital Lean Culture Natural Gas Infrastructure Natural Language Processing Organizational Change Pharmaceutical Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences Project manager Supply Chain Management Sustainable Growth The Fully Automated Contact Center Transformation Initiatives Workplace Analytics eForms eSignatures 3D Thinking BEAM BFARM BTOES17 Big Data Processing Business Analytics Business Growth Centralized Performance Monitoring System Communication Creativity Digital Technologies Digital Technology Educational Psychologist Energy Management Health Insurance Health Maintenance Organizations Hospitality & Construction Human Centered Design Integrated Decision Approach Integrated Decision Making Intelligent Document Processing Kaizen Medicare Moodset for Excellence Natural Language Processing (NLP) Offering Managers Oil and Gas Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Photographing Price and Routing Tracking (PART) Process Design Document (PDD) Product Identifier Descriptions (PIDs) Python Quote to Cash (Q2C) Resilience SAP Sales Quota Team Work Telecommunications Text Mining Visually Displayed Work Culture master text analytics virtual resource management