Researching Lean: Methodological Implications of Loose Definitions

Mikael Brännmark, Jostein Langstrand, Stina Johansson, Agneta Halvarsson, Lena Abrahamsson, Jörgen Winkel


Recently, Lean Production (Lean) has become a prevailing management concept in Sweden. However, previous research seems to show that the Lean concept and the impact of Lean vary considerably between organizations.
This paper illustrates some key methodological issues that need to be considered when researching loosely defined management concepts such as Lean. The paper is based on a review of the literature and five comparative Swedish cases studies.
Our study indicates that Lean has changed over time and that operationalization and interpretations of the concept vary considerably.
This study concludes that future Lean studies should include a thorough assessment of the Lean interventions, study settings, and in particular non-Lean factors mediating the outcomes of Lean-inspired change programs.


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Mikael Brännmark (Primary Contact)
Jostein Langstrand
Stina Johansson
Agneta Halvarsson
Lena Abrahamsson
Jörgen Winkel
Author Biographies

Mikael Brännmark, Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Division of Ergonomics, Stockholm, Sweden Linköping University, HELIX VINN Excellence Centre, Linköping, Sweden

Ph.D. Student

Jostein Langstrand, Linköping University, Division of Quality Technology and Management, Linköping, Sweden Linköping University, HELIX VINN Excellence Centre, Linköping, Sweden,

Lecturer, Ph.D.

Stina Johansson, Luleå University of Technology, Department of Human Work Science, Luleå, Sweden

Ph.D. Student

Agneta Halvarsson, Linköping University, HELIX VINN Excellence Centre, Linköping, Sweden APeL FoU, Örebro, Sweden

Ph.D. Student

Lena Abrahamsson, Luleå University of Technology, Department of Human Work Science, Luleå, Sweden

Professor, Ph.D.

Jörgen Winkel, University of Gothenburg, Department of Sociology and Work Science, Göteborg, Sweden Technical University of Denmark, Department of Management Engineering, Lyngby, Denmark

Professor, Dr. Med. Sc
Brännmark, M., Langstrand, J., Johansson, S., Halvarsson, A., Abrahamsson, L., & Winkel, J. (2012). Researching Lean: Methodological Implications of Loose Definitions. Quality Innovation Prosperity, 16(2), 35–48.
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