Quality Management Means Lean Management

Research using material spanning twenty-two years has shown that Lean Management practices, including high employee engagement, lead to higher levels of productivity

This is the finding of research, carried out by Professor Stephen Wood, now at the University of Leicester School of Management, and his colleague Lilian de Menezes of the Cass Business School, City University, London.

Together, they examined the integrated use in British manufacturing of a set of Lean Management practices in which employee empowerment was a major component over 22 years

Management and employment relations expert Professor Wood commented: “We found in all 22 years that those firms that used the integrated Lean approach have higher levels of productivity (measured by value-added)

In addition, we found that the pioneers of the high lean approach continued to outperform even those that subsequently adopted it. These later adopters gained the performance advantages associated with the integrated approach, but their productivity growth was not sufficient to catch up with those who had adopted it earlier

This shows that employee engagement, so central to Lean production, achieves its aim of continuous improvement.”

The practices included in the study are: empowerment, intensive training and development, team work, Total Quality Management (TQM), Just-in-time, integrated computer-based technology, and supply-chain partnering.

TQM ensures that goods are of high quality from the point of manufacture and not after subsequent inspection. Just-in-time, i.e. goods made to order, means that companies do not have to hold a large – and costly – stock. Empowerment, intensive training and team work all contribute to achieving quality standards “right-first-time” and the continuous improvement in processes

The study was carried out while Professor Wood was at the University of Sheffield, and was financed by the ESRC. It will appear in: L. de Menezes, S. Wood and G. Gelade, ‘A longitudinal study of the latent class clusters of modern management practices and their association with organizational performance in British manufacturing’, Journal of Operations Management , 2010.

Further details are available from Stephen Wood, Professor of Management and Director of Research, University of Leicester School of Management, via the University of Leicester press office at [email protected]