People + Process = Performance

Top 10 Reasons for Ergonomics (or Lean) Program Failure: Part 2

Last week I presented the first 5 reasons of my Top 10 list for why ergonomics (and lean) programs failure.  Here are the next five:

  1. No clear benefit/value to company:  The outcomes of the program must clearly benefit the organization.  If there is no benefit or if the results didn’t meet the expected goals and objectives then the program will likely be dissolved.
  2. No Plans for Sustaining program:  Typically new programs are very strong during design and implementation.  Everyone is excited about the new process and can’t wait for it to happen.  “Go live” went great. But what came after?  Did the next “big thing” happen?  Take time during program design to develop a comprehensive “Day 2” plan.  Day 1 is easy.  It the easiest day you’ll ever have.  It’s Day 2 you need to worry about!
  3. No Priority of Company:  Ergonomics programs are, in my opinion, doomed to fail if they are built solely around injuries.  What is the incentive to continue program the program if costs related to injuries are miniscule?  If injuries go away?  (which they should if you’re doing ergonomics correctly)  Ergonomics needs to fit under all or a great majority of the organization’s strategic initiatives and mission/values statements in order to be sustainable and remain a priority.
  4. Invisible:  “Out of sight, out of mind.”  Need to keep it visible.  Utilize a visual management system—post wins, even post challenges.  Communicate, communicate, communicate!
  5. No standard Work:  If there’s multiple variation in the way work is done, if employees can do things their own way, if processes are done “willy-nilly” then making improvements/changing processes and evaluating success is like throwing Jello on a wall and hoping it’ll stick—it won’t happen and you’ll have continuous frustration as you try to measure and determined what worked, what didn’t and why.  Without standard work process tracking change is virtually impossible which makes it virtually impossible to prove to the C-suite why ergonomics is a program worth investing in and keeping.


And two Bonus reasons for why new programs/initiatives fail.

11.  Failure to include Change Management to the roll out: It recently dawned on me that the difference between success and failure of new programs, of those that take root and grow compared to those that wither and eventually die is due to effective change management.  Implementing ergonomics, lean, a different ERP system, etc., means changing the work in some way, shape or form.  Change is a constant in life and in work.  How people react to change and how quickly they transition from the ending of one work method to the beginning of a new one is vital to the success and sustainability of the new program.   Failing to realize and/or ignoring the effects of change and transition to your employees individually and as a group can be the biggest mistake you make in starting a new program.

12.  Job + Ergonomics (Failure to incorporate the new processes into the daily work and work systems):  One of the things I never want to hear is a manager or front line worker say that they have to do their “job + ergonomics” or their “job + lean”.  Implementing a new program does bring new processes but they should (with forethought before implementation) flow with the current job duties and/or replace some of the current job duties.  Everyone’s plate is overflowing so adding more “to-dos” will give workers an excuse to dislike and resist the new program and even if it has merit.  Be sure to embed the new processes into the daily work.  The comment I want to hear from employees with the implementation of a new ergonomics program is “I do my job”—period, no plus added after it.

This same top 10 list can be applied to almost every organizational initiative/program that fails.  The same reasons apply to failed six sigma, customer service, sales, etc. programs.


What are your thoughts on this list?  Would you add or take away any?