Casting the lean spell: The promotion, dilution and erosion of lean management in the NHS
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article
Colleges, School and Institutes
- University of Manchester
Lean thinking has recently re-emerged as a fashionable management philosophy, especially in public services. A prescriptive or mainstream literature suggests that lean is rapidly diffusing into public sector environments, providing a much-needed rethink of traditional ways of working and stimulating performance improvements. Our study of the introduction of lean in a large UK public sector hospital challenges this argument. Based on a three-year ethnographic study of how employees make sense of lean ‘adoption’, we describe a process in which lean ideas were initially championed, later diluted and ultimately eroded. While initially functioning as a ‘mechanism of hope’ (Brunsson, 2006) around which legitimacy could be generated for tackling longstanding work problems, over time both ‘sellers’ and ‘buyers’ of the concept mobilized lean in ambiguous ways, to the extent that the notion was rendered somewhat meaningless. Ultimately, our analysis rejects current prescriptive or managerialist discourses on lean while offering support for prior positions that would explain such management fashions in terms of the ‘life cycle of a fad’.
|Number of pages||21|
|Early online date||8 Apr 2015|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Oct 2015|