Improving high lean team performance through aligned behaviour-value patterns and coactive vicarious learning-by-doing

Desirée H. van Dun*, Celeste P.M. Wilderom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
105 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Why are some lean workfloor teams able to improve their already high performance, over time, and others not? By studying teams' and leaders' behaviour-value patterns, this abductive field study uncovers a dynamic capability at the team level. Design/methodology/approach: Various methods were employed over three consecutive years to thoroughly examine five initially high-performing lean workfloor teams, including their leaders. These methods encompassed micro-behavioural coding of 59 h of film footage, surveys, individual and group interviews, participant observation and archival data, involving objective and perceptual team-performance indicators. Two of the five teams continued to improve and perform highly. Findings: Continuously improving high lean team performance is found to be associated with (1) team behaviours such as frequent performance monitoring, information sharing, peer support and process improvement; (2) team leaders who balance, over time, task- and relations-oriented behaviours; (3) higher-level leaders who keep offering the team face-to-face support, strategic clarity and tangible resources; (4) these three actors' endorsement of self-transcendence and openness-to-change work values and alignment, over time, with their behaviours; and (5) coactive vicarious learning-by-doing as a “stable collective activity pattern” among team, team leader, and higher-level leadership. Originality/value: Since lean has been undertheorised, the authors invoked insights from organisational behaviour and management theories, in combination with various fine- and coarse-grained data, over time. The authors uncovered actors' behaviour-value patterns and a collective learning-by-doing pattern that may explain continuous lean team performance improvement. Four theory-enriching propositions were developed and visualised in a refined model which may already benefit lean practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-99
Number of pages35
JournalInternational journal of operations & production management
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2021


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