LEXINGTON, MA-Celerant Consulting surveyed 276 Fortune 1000 companies on implementing and measuring performance improvement initiatives such as Six Sigma. Respondents were executives from eight markets-the largest percentage of respondents, 17%, came from the manufacturing industry.

The survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit in September and October 2004, reveals that 45% of respondents say their company's strategic initiatives have performed below plan. Al Mostacciuolo, a project manager for Celerant and a Master Black Belt in Six Sigma, has trained and helped certify many companies in performance improvement initiatives and says that companies need to make a commitment to follow through such initiatives.

Mostacciuolo says that companies might target a particular part of an organization, instead of focusing on the bigger picture, a pitfall for companies struggling with performance improvement initiatives. "Often, clients don't look across departmental issues. They need collaboration across the entire organization," he says.

According to the study, top-performing companies rate themselves high in having clear communication from senior management to frontline employees. Teamwork is an important part of creating sustainable performance initiatives, says Mostacciuolo. "Communication is most valuable and the most difficult to achieve," he says.

But for some companies, barriers continue to lie in the way. By far, the largest problem keeping companies from launching new performance improvement initiatives is the lack of human resources, according to 42% of the executives responding. For the year ahead, 15% of those surveyed will focus on corporate organization re-alignment. In addition, 10% of the companies plan to focus on Six Sigma initiatives and 9% will implement lean manufacturing this year.

Commitment to improving performance is a start for companies that want to achieve results. Mostacciuolo says that every company wants to achieve sustainable results. "Behavior change and culture change have to happen," he says.