Why do process improvement projects fail in organizations? A review and future research agenda

Mariam Bader, Jiju Antony, Raja Jayaraman, Vikas Swarnakar, Ravindra S. Goonetilleke, Maher Maalouf, Jose Arturo Garza-Reyes, Kevin Linderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the critical failure factors (CFFs) linked to various types of process improvement (PI) projects such as Kaizen, Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and Agile. Proposing a mitigation framework accordingly is also an aim of this study. Design/methodology/approach: This research undertakes a systematic literature review of 49 papers that were relevant to the scope of the study and that were published in four prominent databases, including Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science and EBSCO. Findings: Further analysis identifies 39 factors that contribute to the failure of PI projects. Among these factors, significant emphasis is placed on issues such as “resistance to cultural change,” “insufficient support from top management,” “inadequate training and education,” “poor communication” and “lack of resources,” as primary causes of PI project failures. To address and overcome the PI project failures, the authors propose a framework for failure mitigation based on change management models. The authors present future research directions that aim to enhance both the theoretical understanding and practical aspects of PI project failures. Practical implications: Through this study, researchers and project managers can benefit from well-structured guidelines and invaluable insights that will help them identify and address potential failures, leading to successful implementation and sustainable improvements within organizations. Originality/value: To the best of the author’s knowledge, this paper is the first study of its kind to examine the CFFs of five PI methodologies and introduces a novel approach derived from change management theory as a solution to minimize the risk associated with PI failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)664-690
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Lean Six Sigma
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 8 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Science and Operations Research

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