Process Excellence Barriers

By Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

What are Your Process Excellence Barriers?

Poor work system design is the leading cause of our failure to sustain high levels of performance. Over time, I have discovered ten key work systems that must work well, and in sync, in order for sustained process excellence to be realized. Similarly, I was also able to identify ten common process excellence barriers. Common process excellence barriers include poorly designed leadership development systems, technology utilization systems, and measurement systems. What might your process excellence barriers be?

Systems give you with what they are designed to provide you. Your personal process for selecting food determines to some degree the performance of your body. The compensation system you employ at work – the ‘package’ of wages, benefits, and work environment – affects the levels of motivation, ownership, and commitment your people feel towards your organization. Process excellence barriers commonly exist in organizations when work systems such as these are not designed to encourage and support high performance work.

EXPLORE MORE: How Great are Your Work Systems?

This is not an ‘either – or’ argument. Organizational performance is both constrained and aided by systems design and integration. The positive performance of one system can offset the negative impact that a different system is having. For example, a strong leadership system can overcome some of the negatives resulting from a poorly designed compensation system. The goal, of course, is to get all ten work systems spinning in a positive direction, in a sustainable manner. That is how you optimize your performance.

Think of poor work systems design as being similar to a dog that is leashed up in the back yard. The length of the leash is the constraint to the dog’s ability to explore and defend the yard. The leash can be viewed as a process excellence barrier or performance restrictor plate. Optimizing the length of the leash provides benefits to both the dog and the owner. If other ‘more liberating’ restraint systems can be found, further benefits can be gained.

As your key work systems improve in their design, site, business unit, and organizational performance will improve. Certain work systems will contribute more than others. The goal should be to get all key work systems and processes spinning in a positive direction – providing increasing value and improving consistently over time.

LEARN More: Process Improvement Strategies

Process Excellence Barriers and Work Systems

Key Work System Process Excellence Barrier
Leadership Poor alignment in leader actions and behaviors
Strategy Low idea generation rates and limited innovation
Customer Amazement Low product or service value
Measurement Wrong measures used in wrong ways
Team Engagement Low commitment to teamwork and success
Process Improvement High levels of unknown waste, limited process-based improvement
Training and Learning Little practice, low retention, wrong application
Job Design Limited time bit into job for improvement
Communication One way ‘Negative Street’ is most often travelled
Technology Low use of digital and wearable options

Minimizing Process Excellence Barriers

Keep in mind that each of these systems interface with the other nine. Each of these systems is having either a positive or negative spin on your organization at any given time. The speed of this system rotation can be increased or decreased quite easily, but it is often much more difficult to reverse the spin of a system because of the momentum that has been created over time. Improving the above systems by beginning at the top of the list, you can attack the high leverage factors that hold back performance improvements in your organization.

To change behaviors, you need to change systems. You to remove, or at least minimize, process excellence barriers that exist. Asking for, let alone demanding, behavior change will not work. Click on the above process excellence barriers and/or systems (if a link is indicated) to learn more.

Keep improving! Kevin McManus, Chief Excellence Officer and Systems Guy, Great Systems

If you would like more information about the improvement tools and systems I have to offer, please send me an e-mail at