liu.seSearch for publications in DiVA
Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Defining lean production: some conceptual and practical issues
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Quality Technology and Management. Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences, Managing Mobility for Learning, Health and Innovation (HELIX). Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9155-189X
2009 (English)In: The TQM Journal, ISSN 1754-2731, Vol. 21, no 2, 127-142 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate the definition of lean production and the methods and goals associated with the concept as well as how it differs from other popular management concepts. '

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a review of the contemporary literature on lean production, both journal articles and books.

Findings – It is shown in the paper that there is no consensus on a definition of lean production between the examined authors. The authors also seem to have different opinions on which characteristics should be associated with the concept. Overall it can be concluded that lean production is not clearly defined in the reviewed literature. This divergence can cause some confusion on a theoretical level, but is probably more problematic on a practical level when organizations aim to implement the concept. This paper argues that it is important for an organization to acknowledge the different variations, and to raise the awareness of the input in the implementation process. It is further argued that the organization should not accept any random variant of lean, but make active choices and adapt the concept to suit the organization's needs. Through this process of adaptation, the organization will be able to increase the odds of performing a predictable and successful implementation.

Originality/value – This paper provides a critical perspective on the discourse surrounding lean production, and gives an input to the discussion of the implementation of management models.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited , 2009. Vol. 21, no 2, 127-142 p.
Keyword [en]
Lean Production, Quality Management, Definition
National Category
Business Administration
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-18419DOI: 10.1108/17542730910938137OAI: diva2:219059
Available from: 2009-05-26 Created: 2009-05-26 Last updated: 2015-02-05Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Translating Lean Production: From Managerial Discourse to Organizational Practice
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Translating Lean Production: From Managerial Discourse to Organizational Practice
2009 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Översättning av Lean Production : från managementdiskurs till organisatorisk praktik
Abstract [en]

The majority of organizational change efforts end in failure. These failures can often be ascribed to lack of understanding of the translation processes that accompany the implementation of management concepts. Translation becomes evident when the initial ambitions of an implementation process are changed as they are communicated through the organization, often leading to unwanted results.

This thesis deals with the translation of management concepts. The ambition is to contribute to the body of knowledge that is concerned with this theoretical direction through demonstrating how the currently dominating management concept Lean Production is translated as it is passed between contexts.

The thesis is based on three studies of management concepts at various levels of abstraction. The first study is based on a review of the major literature on Lean Production. The second study is based on a survey among Swedish production managers on their application of management methods and concepts. The third study comprises a series of interviews within a large Swedish industrial organization, focusing on how Lean Production has been translated during the implementation process.

The results show that Lean Production is far from well defined or unequivocal. There is always room for translation as the concept is passed between actors within an organization. It is therefore unreasonable to expect the concept to provide certain results. The results are determined by the way the concept is interpreted and translated within the organization that seeks to implement it. It is argued that insufficient translation competence will increase the risk of an uncontrolled and potentially ineffective translation process, leading to unexpected and undesirable results.

Through combining these results with existing theories within the management field, the author presents a tentative model for analyzing the translation of management concepts all the way from the general managerial discourse to the practice that can be observed at the factory floor of a company. It is proposed that this model may be used as a conceptual framework for further studies of the translation of management concepts.

Abstract [sv]

Majoriteten av organisatoriska förändringsinsatser misslyckas. Dessa misslyckanden kan ofta tillskrivas bristande kunskap om de översättningsprocesser som hänger samman med implementering av managementkoncept. Översättningarna blir synliga när de initiala ambitionerna i implementeringsprocessen förändras efter hand som de kommuniceras genom organisationen, vilket ofta leder till oönskade resultat.

Ambitionen med denna avhandling är att ge ett kunskapsbidrag till teorier om översättning av managementkoncept genom att demonstrera hur det för tiden dominerande managementkonceptet Lean Production översätts när det passerar gränserna mellan olika kontexter.

Avhandlingen är baserad på tre studier av managementkoncept på olika abstraktionsnivåer. Den första studien grundar sig på en genomgång av den centrala litteraturen om Lean Production. Den andra studien bygger på en enkätundersökning bland svenska produktionschefer och rör deras tillämpning av managementmetoder och koncept. Den tredje studien omfattar en serie intervjuer inom ett större svenskt industriföretag, där fokus ligger på hur Lean Production har översatts under implementeringsprocessen.

Resultaten visar att Lean Production är långt ifrån väldefinierat eller otvetydigt. Det finns alltid utrymme för översättning när konceptet kommuniceras mellan aktörer inom och mellan organisationer. Det är därför orimligt att förvänta sig att konceptet ska leverera särskilda resultat. Resultaten kommer snarare från det sätt som konceptet tolkas och översätts inom organisationen som avser att införa det i verksamheten. Det framhålls att bristande översättningskompetens kommer att öka risken för okontrollerad och potentiellt verkningslös översättningsprocess, vilket kan medföra oväntade och oönskade resultat.

Genom att kombinera de empiriska resultaten från de tre ovan nämnda studierna med teorier inom managementområdet presenteras en tentativ modell för hur översättning av managementkoncept kan studeras från den generella managementdiskursen till den praktik som kan observeras på verkstadsgolvet inom ett företag. Det föreslås att modellen kan användas som ett konceptuellt ramverk för vidare studier av översättning av managementkoncept.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2009. 60 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Thesis, ISSN 0280-7971 ; 1402
, Dissertations from HELIX Graduate School, 4
Lean Production, Translation, Implementation, Organizational change, Lean Production, översättning, implementering, organisationsförändring
National Category
Business Administration Other Mechanical Engineering
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-18424 (URN)LiU-TEK-Lic 2009:10 (Local ID)978-91-7393-630-9 (ISBN)LiU-TEK-Lic 2009:10 (Archive number)LiU-TEK-Lic 2009:10 (OAI)
2009-06-04, ACAS, hus A, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-05-29 Created: 2009-05-26 Last updated: 2015-02-05Bibliographically approved
2. Exploring organizational translation: A case study of changes toward Lean Production
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring organizational translation: A case study of changes toward Lean Production
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Lean Production has received massive attention during recent years, and many organizations attempt to introduce it with an ambition to reach the radical improvement effects that are promised in the popular management literature. However, introducing a management concept can be a very challenging task, and research has shown that the majority of such initiatives fail. A common observation is that the outcome of a change initiative differs from its initial intentions, which indicates that the content of the change is somehow transformed during the process. This kind of transformation can be described as organizational translation.

The purpose of the thesis is to provide an account of how processes of organizational translation transpire and to analyze and identify the main determinants of their outcome.

The thesis is based on a longitudinal case study that has focused on the introduction of the management concept Lean in a large Swedish manufacturing company. The study has been performed in two phases. In the first phase, a series of retrospective interviews have been performed with employees at all hierarchical levels within the company. The second phase of the study has been based on a prospective approach. This phase has comprised a combination of interviews, observations and document studies, with focus on a pilot project within the company. The study was performed between 2007 and 2011 and covers events between 2003 and 2011.

By analyzing the changes from a translation perspective, the thesis contributes to explore the meaning of organizational translation and the mechanisms through which Lean is materialized and developed into organizational practice.

Three types of organizational translation are presented in the thesis. These are defined as the activities and processes through which Lean is translated to a local set of ideas, practices and objects, respectively. It is suggested that these three entities and the corresponding forms of translation interact and together influence how people behave, which in turn will affect the results of the change initiative. This implies that all three types of organizational translation need to be addressed for a change initiative to be successful. Further, the suggested change must be translated so that it is represented in physical objects, people’s understanding and organizational practice. Lack of alignment between these three entities will create tension, which will likely hinder change and increase the risk of failure.

Abstract [sv]

Lean Production är ett koncept som har fått mycket uppmärksamhet under de senaste åren, och många organisationer försöker att införa det utifrån en ambition att uppnå de radikala förbättringseffekterna som utlovas i den populära managementlitteraturen. Att föra in ett managementkoncept kan vara en mycket svår uppgift, och forskning har visat att majoriteten av sådana initiativ misslyckas. En vanlig observation är att utfallet av ett förändringsinitiativ ofta avviker från de ursprungliga målsättningarna, vilket antyder att förändringens innehåll på något sätt har omvandlats under processen. Denna sorts omvandling kan beskrivas som organisatorisk översättning.

Syftet med avhandlingen är att ge en bild av hur organisatorisk översättning kan gå till samt analysera och identifiera de viktigaste drivkrafterna i sådana processer.

Avhandlingen baseras på en longitudinell fallstudie som har fokuserat på införandet av managementkonceptet Lean i ett stort svenskt tillverkningsföretag. Studien har genomförts i två faser. I den första fasen har en serie retrospektiva intervjuer genomförts med anställda på samtliga hierarkiska nivåer inom företaget. Studiens andra fas har baserats på en prospektiv ansats. Denna fas har innefattat en kombination av intervjuer, observationer och dokumentstudier, med fokus på ett pilotprojekt inom företaget. Studien har genomförts mellan 2007 och 2011, och behandlar händelser mellan 2003 och 2011.

Tre former för organisatorisk översättning presenteras i avhandlingen. Dessa definieras som de aktiviteter och processer varigenom Lean översätts till en lokal uppsättning av idéer, praktiker samt objekt. Det föreslås att dessa tre enheter och deras motsvarande former för översättning interagerar och tillsammans påverkar människors beteende, vilket i sin tur påverkar resultaten av förändringsinsatsen. Detta innebär att alla tre former för organisatorisk översättning måste tas i beaktning för att en förändringsinsats ska lyckas. De föreslagna förändringarna måste översättas så att de representeras i fysiska objekt, människors förståelse samt organisatorisk praktik. Brist på överensstämmelse mellan dessa tre enheter kommer leda till spänningar, vilka sannolikt kommer att hindra förändringen och öka risken för misslyckande.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2012. 181 p.
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 1422
Organizational change, Lean Production, Organizational translation, Organisatorisk förändring, lean, organisatorisk översättning
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-74621 (URN)978-91-7519-974-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2012-03-16, C3, Hus C, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 10:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2012-02-27 Created: 2012-02-02 Last updated: 2015-02-05Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Other links

Publisher's full textLink to Licentiate Thesis

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Pettersen, Jostein
By organisation
Quality Technology and ManagementManaging Mobility for Learning, Health and Innovation (HELIX)The Institute of Technology
In the same journal
The TQM Journal
Business Administration

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 2478 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link