An empirical study into the reasons for failure of sustaining operational excellence initiatives in organizations

Jiju Antony, Michael Sony, Olivia McDermott, Vikas Swarnakar, Brian Galli, Mehran Doulatabadi, Rajesh Kaul

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    Purpose: Operational excellence (OPEX) initiatives such as Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and Agile have some common characteristics that can be understood through their adoption in organizations. The objective of this research is to present the results of an online survey highlighting the most critical reasons for failure of OPEX initiatives. Design/methodology/approach: This study presents the results of a survey from 106 experts from different countries who have been involved in OPEX implementation. The experts were Six Sigma Master Black Belts, Black Belts and Champions from different manufacturing and service organizations. The developed questionnaire was initially tested with the help of seven experts to ensure their technical validity and soundness. Findings: The study found 15% of companies surveyed have not adopted any form of OPEX methodology. The top three reasons for non-adoption of OPEX were also found. In terms of the use of various OPEX methodologies, more than 75% of companies were employing Six Sigma and less than 50% were engaged in Lean initiatives. Another surprising result was that less than 5% of the companies were utilizing Kaizen and other continuous improvement methodologies for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of organizational processes. The study further finds top five failure factors for sustaining OPEX initiatives in manufacturing, service, large and small organizations. Research limitations/implications: The study reports the outcomes based on an online survey with limited sample size. Moreover, the number of samples from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) was less than 25, and therefore it was difficult to make any robust conclusions in the comparison of failure factors between large enterprises and SMEs. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first empirical study that has attempted to explore the reasons for failure of OPEX initiatives. The authors argue that a greater understanding of the reasons for failure of OPEX initiatives can provide an input to develop a framework that can mitigate the failures and costs associated with such failures.

    Original languageBritish English
    JournalTQM Journal
    StateAccepted/In press - 2022


    • Continuous improvement
    • Failure factors
    • Lean
    • Lean six sigma
    • Operational excellence
    • Six sigma
    • Survey


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