Successful lean implementation: Organizational culture and soft lean practices

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Lean management (LM) is a managerial approach for improving processes based on a complex system of interrelated socio-technical practices. Recently, debate has centered on the role of organizational culture (OC) in LM. This paper aims to contribute to this debate by examining whether plants that successfully implement LM are characterized by a specific OC profile and extensively adopt soft LM practices. Data were analyzed from the High Performance Manufacturing (HPM) project dataset using a multi-group approach. The results revealed that a specific OC profile characterizes successful lean plants; in particular, when compared to unsuccessful lean plants, they show a higher institutional collectivism, future orientation, a humane orientation, and a lower level of assertiveness. While a high level of institutional collectivism, future orientation, and humane orientation are common features of high performers in general, a low level of assertiveness is typical only of successful lean plants. In addition, successful lean plants use soft LM practices more extensively than unsuccessful lean plants (i.e., lean practices concerning people and relations, such as small group problem solving, employees’ training to perform multiple tasks, supplier partnerships, customer involvement, and continuous improvement), while they do not differ significantly in terms of hard LM practices (i.e., lean technical and analytical tools). For managers, the results indicate that, in order to implement LM successfully, it is fundamental to go beyond LM technicalities by adopting soft practices and nurturing the development of an appropriate OC profile.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)182-201
Aantal pagina's20
TijdschriftInternational Journal of Production Economics
StatusPublished - feb.-2015
Extern gepubliceerdJa

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