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How did the publication of the book The Machine That Changed The World change management thinking? Exploring 25 years of lean literature

Samuel, D., Found, P. ORCID: and Williams, S.J. 2015. How did the publication of the book The Machine That Changed The World change management thinking? Exploring 25 years of lean literature. International Journal of Operations and Production Management 35 (10) , pp. 1386-1407. 10.1108/IJOPM-12-2013-0555

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to take a critical, analytical approach to explore the growth and spread of Lean through the academic and practitioner community over the last 25 years to understand the impact of the book The Machine that Changed the World on management thinking. Design/methodology/approach – A comprehensive and systematic review of the extant literature of lean was undertaken and analysed critically to observe patterns and trends that could explain the acceptance of Lean as an operations management philosophy. The review spans from 1987 to 2013. To enable us to effectively manage and understand the diffusion of this literature a database, the Lean Publications Database, was constructed. The number of publications has been adjusted to compensate for growth in the total number of articles published in the same period. Findings – Lean has evolved to be one of the best-known, yet fiercely debated, process improvement methodologies. It emerged during a proliferation of such methodologies in the business and management literature. Lean has developed from a generic description of Toyota Production System (TPS) to a particular type of organisational and management intervention focused on best practice and process improvement methodologies. Research limitations/implications – This paper provides the first comprehensive review of the Lean literature, from the perspective of Lean as the unit of analysis. It covers both sides of the academic debate and categorises the progression of Lean from its origins as a generic description of TPS to a movement that has changed management systems in many and diverse sectors. Practical implications – This paper demonstrates how Lean research, application and thinking has evolved over 25 years from its origins in Japanese auto-manufacturing to a holistic value system that is applicable to all business sectors, both private and public. Originality/value – In most empirical studies on Lean, the unit of analysis is the organisation. In this study, the unit of analysis is the Lean phenomenon itself. This paper examines the impact of The Machine that Changed the World on management thinking. In addition, it presents a step to developing an underpinning theory by linking Lean to the Theory of Swift, Even Flow. As such it is of interest to academics in the field of operations management and offers a contribution to knowledge. It is also likely to be of interest to policy makers. Considerable amounts of public money have been spent, and continue to be spent, on promoting Lean. Taxpayers and policymakers are likely to be interested in whether that expenditure is justifiable. 25 years of publications have been analysed to provide clarity around this popular approach to organisational improvement.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 0144-3577
Date of Acceptance: 24 December 2014
Last Modified: 25 Oct 2022 13:16

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