Process improvement project failure: a systematic literature review and future research agenda

Jiju Antony, Bart A. Lameijer*, Hans P. Borgman, Kevin Linderman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: Although scholars have considered the success factors of process improvement (PI) projects, limited research has considered the factors that influence failure. The purpose of this paper is to extend the understanding of PI project failure by systematically reviewing the research on generic project failure, and developing research propositions and future research directions specifically for PI projects. 

Design/methodology/approach: A systematic literature review protocol resulted in a total of 97 research papers that are reviewed for contributions on project failure.

Findings: An inductive category formation process resulted in three categories of findings. The first category are the causes for project failure, the second category is about relatedness between failure factors and the third category is on failure mitigation strategies. For each category, propositions for future research on PI projects specifically are developed. Additional future research directions proposed lay in better understanding PI project failure as it unfolds (i.e. process studies vs cross-sectional), understanding PI project failure from a theoretical perspective and better understanding of PI project failure antecedents.

Originality/value: This paper takes a multi-disciplinary and project type approach, synthesizes the existing knowledge and reflects upon the developments in the field of research. Propositions and a framework for future research on PI project failure are presented.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Lean Six Sigma
Early online date16 Aug 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Aug 2021


  • Continuous improvement
  • Lean
  • Process improvement
  • Project failure
  • Six Sigma
  • Systematic literature review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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