Managing Paradoxical Tensions During the Implementation of Lean Capabilities for Improvement

Malek Miguel Maalouf, Britta Gammelgaard

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Purpose: – Through the identification and investigation of the organisational paradoxes in lean, the purpose of this paper is to deepen the understanding of lean implementation intricacies, and contribute to sustaining lean in companies.
Design/methodology/approach: – Case study based on semi-structured interviews with participants in lean conversion from three companies in Denmark. The companies come from different business sectors: public transport, healthcare and finance.
Findings: – This study identifies three types of organisational paradoxes in lean: organising, performing and belonging. The study also points to a range managerial responses used for dealing with the three paradoxes and facilitating lean transformation.
Research limitations/implications: – This is a theory development paper which increases the understanding regarding the role of the organisational paradoxes in facilitating or hindering lean transformation.
Practical implications: – The study generates insights which help managers identify and deal with the individual motivations for opposing lean practices, and thus facilitates lean transformation.
Originality/value: – This study adds clarity to the process of managing lean implementation by identifying three different motivations for people to oppose lean transformation. The study also recommends managerial actions for dealing with each situation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)687-709
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Denmark
  • Lean
  • Continuous improvement
  • Tension
  • Paradox
  • Organizational paradox

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