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MAKING PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS STICK

Starting with Frederick Taylor and W. Edwards Deming, managers have long been obsessed with ways to improve business processes. And in the past 20 years, a host of improvement initiatives, including lean production, Six Sigma, and agile, have swept through a range of industries. Studies show that companies embracing such techniques may enjoy significant improvements in efficiency and costs. But when the University of North Carolina’s Brad Staats and the University of Oxford’s Matthias Holweg and David Upton looked at the benefits, they noticed a gap. “These things always work well initially, but often the gains fade very quickly,” Holweg says. “It’s always felt like researchers were telling only half the ...

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