Defining Lean Production

Jostein Pettersen
Division of Quality Technology and Management & Helix VINN Excellence Centre Linköping University, Sweden

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Publicerad: 2008-12-09


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


Purpose: This paper aims 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.

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 that 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.


Lean Production; Definition; Construct Validity; Total Quality Management


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