Research Output
An interpretive phenomenological approach to understanding employee meaning of lean and respect for people
  Lean is a popular approach for improving operational efficiencies in an organisation through the reduction of wasteful activities. Entities of every size and description today are implementing Lean techniques to maximise customer value, operational effectiveness and organisational profits. Organisations enter into the Lean world with high hopes of reducing costs and product and/or service lead time and increasing on time delivery and quality. Unfortunately, success stories in Lean are infrequent. Taiichi Ohno, an architect of the Toyota Production System, upon which Lean was founded, stressed the importance of Respect for People as a requirement for successfully implementing Lean methodologies. While a great deal of the academic literature has focused on the positive benefits that Lean techniques and methodologies provide for the organisation, little research can be found on the notion of Respect for People. It would appear that many practitioners and researchers do not subscribe to Taiichi Ohno’s theory that the operational benefits of Lean cannot be realised without a supporting organisational culture of Respect for People. Instead, there is evidence in the literature that Lean methodologies negatively impact employees tasked with implementing and sustaining Lean, suggesting that, from the employee perspective, Lean can be mean. Employing an interpretive phenomenological approach and using a semi-structured interview method within a single case company, Respect for People was found to be much more than a tautology. It was instead a complex notion implicitly linked in the minds of employees to their understanding of what Lean is. A framework of core concepts and associated dimensions were identified for the phenomena of Lean and Respect for People. From the employee perspective, Lean did not have to be mean. By developing a deeper understanding of the employee experience of both Lean and Respect for People, organisations could better position themselves to enhance Lean implementations with a shared cultural understanding of what Lean and Respect for People means for its employees.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    31 October 2018

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    HD28 Management. Industrial Management

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    658 General management

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Sloan, B. An interpretive phenomenological approach to understanding employee meaning of lean and respect for people. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



Lean, Respect, People, Employee Meaning,

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