I did the same continuous improvement project. Twice. Seriously, the exact same project. Twice.  

This is a serious crime in the world of continuous improvement. You should never have to go back and do the same project again. Honestly, we should have never even started that project.   

The project objective was to standardize a common process across multiple work groups. I had an engaged project leader, I had a well-defined project charter, and I had a fairly motivated project team representing each work group directly impacted. We also had a willing Continuous Improvement Partner (me) to support the effort.  

So what was wrong? I didn’t have sponsorship support.  

At this time in my career, my immediate supervisor had instructed me to not to involve leaders or project sponsors until absolutely necessary because “they are too busy.” Our method of operation was to conduct process improvement at the lowest level possible and only go to the leaders once we had a final recommendation or if we had a major problem. This can work if you’re improving a process within a small team or workgroup, but this was a terrible idea for a cross-functional standardization project. Absolutely terrible!   

When we finally went to the leader with our recommendations, after months of work, he said “no”.   

We weren’t aware of other major, conflicting initiatives that would limit our ability to make changes to the process. Our timing was off. We had not fully realized the impact to all of the stakeholders involved. We missed a lot of details.  So, the leader just said “no”.  

We wasted so much time and effort. Our team felt dejected. It hurt my reputation as their CI partner. And I knew better.  

All of this waste could have been avoided if we would have met with the potential sponsor before we ever started the project. A simple 30-minute conversation could have saved us months of work.   

I mentioned that I did this project twice. I am happy to report that we DID go back and redo the project…..4 years later. Before we started, we did our homework and gained support from the right sponsor before we ever started the project. The project was a major success — the second time around.