Improving lean team performance: leadership and workfloor dynamics

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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This Ph.D. thesis reports four different studies that were undertaken to identify and examine the content of human dynamics that may account for sustainable lean team performance, at multiple organizational levels: higher-level leaders (including top- and middle managers), team leaders, and team members. The thesis emphasizes human work values and behaviors, also because an Organizational Behavior focus was called for in the advancement of lean Operations Management, and work values are seen as important underlying determinants of (lean) work behavior. While effective lean teams are often regarded as self-managed work teams, we found that top or higher-level managers play key roles in training and developing lean team members and their leaders. Managers showcase their desired behavioral patterns to their followers by exemplary role modeling relations-oriented behavior, and airing their self-transcendence and openness-to-change type values. In this way, higher-leader behavior is cascaded to the lowest organizational level, so that each workfloor member is focused on and committed to achieving optimal customer value through continuous process improvement. Also higher-level managers’ guidance and clarity in terms of organizational strategy and structure, as well as aligned investment in lean and people development, is shown to facilitate lean team performance. In other words, despite frequent calls to simply “scrap” middle management, a remark often heard on workfloors during initial attempts to implement lean, if such managers are good at translating organizational strategy to their (lean) teams, they will not become obsolete. These insights may guide managers who envision a lean transformation on their workfloors. Also those who advise lean teams and their leaders may direct their interventions more at leader-behavioral development, instead of merely “rolling out” a predetermined set of lean tools such as Value Stream Mapping, 5S, or Kanban. Such leader coaching could take place on the basis of mapping personal-value constellations (e.g., through a card sorting technique used in chapter II of the dissertation) and subsequent reflecting upon how their own values influence their own behaviors. Furthermore, those who select, train, and promote leaders may feel the need to enrich their leader profiles with the values and behaviors reported in the dissertation.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Wilderom, Celeste P.M., Supervisor
Award date11 Dec 2015
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-4000-1
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2015


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