Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7f7b94f6bd-q7wkk Total loading time: 0.485 Render date: 2022-06-30T01:21:11.262Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Revolution or 30-year fad? A role for I-O psychology in Lean management

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 July 2019

William K. Balzer
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
Michelle H. Brodke
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
Christopher Kluse
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
Michael J. Zickar*
Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio, USA
*Corresponding author. Email:


Lean management and related ideas have had a significant impact on organizations throughout North America and the world. Despite its popularity and impact, I-O psychologists have largely neglected Lean as a research topic and few I-O psychologists engage in applied practice in the area. In this focal article, we provide a working definition of Lean and present examples of Lean’s influence. Next, we outline possible reasons to explain I-O psychologists’ indifference to Lean. Finally, we provide some topic areas that I-O psychologists can use to contribute to the Lean literature. By using I-O psychologists’ skill in measurement and evaluation, along with our considerable organizational theory, we believe that I-O psychology can improve Lean and broaden their impact. We hope this focal article will inspire I-O psychologists to reconsider a research and practice area that they have previously ignored. In addition, we hope that this article causes I-O psychologists to reflect on their role to play in addressing popular management trends.

Focal Article
© Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We want to thank Taylor Aubry for her research assistance and support on this project. In addition, we thank Timothy Krehbiel and Scott Highhouse for comments on an early version of this manuscript, as well as two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.


Abernathy, F. H., Dunlop, J. T., Hammond, J. H., & Weil, D. (1999). A stitch in time: Lean retailing and the transformation of manufacturing—lessons from the apparel and textile industries. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Abrahamson, E. (1996). Management fashion. Academy of Management Review, 21(1), 254285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Al-Balushi, S., Sohal, A. S., Singh, P. J., Al Hajri, A., Al Farsi, Y. M., & Al Abri, R. (2014). Readiness factors for lean implementation in healthcare settings—a literature review. Journal of Health Organization and Management, 28(2), 135153. doi: 10.1108/JHOM-04-2013-0083CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Anderson, N., Herriot, P., & Hodgkinson, G. P. (2001). The practitioner-researcher divide in industrial, work and organizational (IWO) psychology: Where are we now, and where do we go from here? Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74(4), 391411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ball, D. R., & Maleyeff, J. (2003). Lean management of environmental consulting. Journal of Management in Engineering, 19(1), 1724. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)0742-597X(2003)19:1(17)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balzer, W. K. (2010). Lean higher education: Increasing the value and performance of university processes. New York, NY: Productivity Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balzer, W. K., Francis, D. E., Krehbiel, T. C., & Shea, N. (2016). A review and perspective on Lean in higher education. Quality Assurance in Education, 21, 442462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balzer, W. K., Smith, E. M., & Alexander, K. (2009, April). What do we know about the psychology of Lean? Poster presentation at the 24th Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, New Orleans, LA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bhamu, J., & Sangwan, K. (2014). Lean manufacturing: Literature review and research issues. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 34(7), 876940. doi: 10.1108/IJOPM-08-2012-0315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Birdi, K., Clegg, C., Patterson, M., Robinson, A., Stride, C. B., Wall, T. D., & Wood, S. J. (2008). The impact of human resource and operational management practices on company productivity: A longitudinal study. Personnel Psychology, 61, 467501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bort, S., & Kieser, A. (2011). Fashion in organization theory: An empirical analysis of the diffusion of theoretical concepts. Organization Studies, 32(5), 655681.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bortolotti, T., Boscari, S., & Danese, P. (2015). Successful lean implementation: Organizational culture and soft lean practices. International Journal of Production Economics, 160, 182201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bouville, G., & Alis, D. (2014). The effects of lean organizational practices on employees’ attitudes and workers’ health: Evidence from France. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(21), 30163037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cascio, W. F. (1995). Whither industrial and organizational psychology in a changing world of work? American Psychologist, 50(11), 928939.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Castillo, G., Alarcón, L. F., & González, V. A. (2015). Implementing lean production in copper mining development projects: Case study. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, 141(1), 5014013. doi: 10.1061/(ASCE)CO.1943-7862.0000917Google Scholar
Conger, J. A. (1989). Leadership: The art of empowering others. Academy of Management Executive, 3(1), 1724.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cullinane, S. J., Bosak, J., Flood, P. C., & Demerouti, E. (2013). Job design under lean manufacturing and its impact on employee outcomes. Organizational Psychology Review, 3(1), 4161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cullinane, S., Bosak, J., Flood, P. C., & Demerouti, E. (2017). Job crafting for lean engagement: The interplay of day and job-level characteristics. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26(4), 541554.Google Scholar
Daine, T., Winnington, T., & Head, P. (2011). Transition from push to pull in the wholesale/retail sector: Lessons to be learned from lean. International Journal Logistics Systems and Management, 8(2), 214232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Del Marmol, L. (2017). 5 Clever lessons from Walt Disney about Lean management. Retrieved from Scholar
Delbridge, R., Lowe, J., & Oliver, N. (2000). Shopfloor responsibilities under Lean teamworking. Human Relations, 53(11), 14591479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the crisis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dilton-Hill, K. (2015). Lean in finance. Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance, 26(3), 1525. doi: 10.1002/jcaf.22030Google Scholar
Dunnette, M. D. (1966). Fads, fashions, and folderol in psychology. American Psychologist, 21(4), 343352.Google Scholar
Egan, M., Bambra, C., Thomas, S., Petticrew, M., Whitehead, M., & Thomson, H. (2007). The psychological and health effects of workplace reorganization. A systematic review of organizational-level interventions that aim to increase employee control. British Medical Journal, 61, 945954.Google Scholar
Emiliani, B. (2015). Lean university: A guide to renewal and prosperity. Wethersfield, CT: The CLBM, LLC.Google Scholar
Goldratt, E. M. (1989). The general theory of constraints. New Haven, CT: Abraham Goldratt Institute.Google Scholar
Graban, M. (2009). Lean hospitals: Improving quality, patient safety, and employee satisfaction. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
Hackman, J. R., & Suttle, J. L. (1977). Improving life at work: Behavioral science approaches to organizational change. Santa Monica, CA: Goodyear.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hackman, J. R., & Wageman, R. (1995). Total quality management: Empirical, conceptual, and practical issues. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 309342.Google Scholar
Hammer, M., & Champy, J. (1993). Business process reengineering. London, UK: Nicholas Brealey.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hardcopf, R., & Shah, R. (2014, January). Lean and performance: The impact of organizational culture. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2014(1), 10747. Scholar
Harry, M. J., & Schroeder, R. (1999). Six Sigma: The breakthrough management strategy revolutionizing the world’s top corporations (1st ed.). New York, NY: Currency.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hines, P., & Rich, N. (1997). The seven value stream mapping tools. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 17(1), 4664.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Jackson, P. R., & Mullarkey, S. (2000). Lean production teams and health in garment manufacture. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 5(2), 231245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Janssen, M., & Estevez, E. (2013). Lean government and platform-based governance—doing more with less. Government Information Quarterly, 30, S1S8. doi: 10.1016/j.giq.2012.11.003CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jasti, N. V. K., & Kodali, R. (2014). A literature review of empirical research methodology in lean manufacturing. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 34(8), 10801122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jasti, N. V. K., & Kodali, R. (2015). Lean production: literature review and trends. International Journal of Production Research, 53(3), 867885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kim, Y. W., & Hochstatter, K. (2016). Transformational Leadership and its impact on Lean implementation. Journal of Construction Engineering and Project Management, 6(1), 2025.Google ScholarPubMed
Knight, C., & Haslam, S. A. (2010). The relative merits of lean, enriched, and empowered offices: An experimental examination of the impact of workspace management strategies on well-being and productivity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 16(2), 158172.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Koukoulaki, T. (2014). The impact of lean production on musculoskeletal and psychosocial risks: An examination of sociotechnical trends over 20 years. Applied Ergonomics, 45(2), 198212.Google Scholar
Kozlowski, S. W. J. (Ed.) (2012). The Oxford Handbook of organizational psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Krafcik, J. F. (1988). Triumph of the lean production system. Sloan Management Review, 30(1), 4152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lacetera, N., & Sydnor, J. (2015). Would you buy a Honda made in the United States? The impact of production location on manufacturing quality. Review of Economics and Statistics, 97(4), 855876.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Laohavichien, T., Fredendall, L. D., & Cantrell, R. S. (2009). The effects of transformational and transactional leadership on quality improvement. Quality Management Journal, 16(2), 724.Google Scholar
LeanOhio (2018, October 4). Summary of Kaizen Events in Ohio State Government since January 2011. Retrieved from Scholar
Liker, J. K. (2004). The Toyota way: 14 management principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
Liker, J. K., & Convis, G. L. (2012). The Toyota way to lean leadership. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
Locher, D. (2011). Lean office and service simplified: The definitive how-to guide. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Luo, S. J., Chao, D. P., Lee, S. T., & Hsieh, L. Y. (2013). Introducing lean service to the blended learning educational environment structure for food and beverage preparation. Journal of Applied Sciences, 13(17), 34753482. doi: 10.3923/jas.2013.3475.3482Google Scholar
Martin, J. W. (2009). Lean Six Sigma for the office. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
Martin, K. (2012). The outstanding organization: Generate business results by eliminating chaos and building the foundation for everyday excellence. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mehri, D. (2006). The darker side of lean: An insider’s perspective on the realities of the Toyota production system. Academy of Management Perspectives, 20(2), 2142. doi: 10.5465/AMP.2006.20591003Google Scholar
Miller, D. (Ed.) (2005). Going Lean in health care. Cambridge, MA: Institute for Healthcare Improvement.Google Scholar
Miller, J., Wroblewski, M., & Villafuerte, J. (2014). Creating a kaizen culture. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
Monden, Y. (1983). Toyota production system: A practical approach to production management. Norcross, GA: Industrial Engineers and Management Press.Google Scholar
Monden, Y. (1994). Toyota production system (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Chapman & Hall.Google Scholar
Muchinsky, P. M. (2006). Psychology applied to work: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
Nanos, J. (2017, Martch 19). Lean farming: Small family operations are learning to increase production and cut waste with the efficiency of a Toyota factory. Boston Globe, G1.Google Scholar
Ohno, T. (1988). Toyota production system: Beyond large-scale production. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
Onetto, M. (2014, February). When Toyota met e-commerce-LEAN at Amazon. McKinsey Quarterly, 17. Retrieved from Scholar
Pakdil, F., & Leonard, K. M. (2015). The effect of organizational culture on implementing and sustaining lean processes. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 26(5), 725743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Parker, S. K. (2003). Longitudinal effects of lean production on employee outcomes and the mediating role of work characteristics. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(4), 620634.Google ScholarPubMed
Procter, S., & Radnor, Z. (2014). Teamworking under Lean in UK public services: Lean teams and team targets in Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC). International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(21), 29782995.Google Scholar
Robinson, F. G., Cunningham, L. L., Turner, S. P., Lindroth, J., Ray, D., Khan, T., & Yates, A. (2016). Improving a dental school’s clinic operations using lean process improvement. Journal of Dental Education, 80(10), 11701179.Google Scholar
Rother, M. (2010). The evolution of Lean; Actually … evolution in our understanding of Lean. Retrieved from Scholar
Rother, M., & Shook, J. (2003). Learning to see: Value stream mapping to add value and eliminate muda. Cambridge, MA: Lean Enterprise Institute.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rynes, S. L. (2012). The research-practice gap in I/O psychology and related fields: Challenges and potential solutions. In Kozlowski, S. W. J. (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of organizational psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 409452). New York, NY: Oxford.Google Scholar
Samuel, D., Found, P., & Williams, S. (2015). How did the publication of the book the machine that changed the world change management thinking? Exploring 25 years of Lean literature. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 35(10), 13861407. doi: 10.1108/IJOPM-12-2013-0555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seay, S., & Narsing, A. (2013). Transitioning to a lean paradigm: A model for sustainability in the leasing and rental industries. Academy of Strategic Management Journal, 12(1), 113124.Google Scholar
Shah, R., & Ward, P. T. (2007). Defining and developing measures of lean production. Journal of Operations Management, 25, 785805.Google ScholarPubMed
Shang, G., & Low, S. P. (2014). Lean construction management: The Toyota way. Singapore: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-981-287-014-8Google Scholar
Slunecka, F., & Farris, D. (2008). LEAN principles provide opportunities for Catholic health care organizations. Health Progress, 89(4), 4650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Society for Occuptional Health Psychology. Field of OHP. Retrieved from ScholarPubMed
Sosik, J. J., & Dionne, S. D. (1997). Leadership styles and Deming’s behavior factors. Journal of Business and Psychology, 11(4), 447462.Google Scholar
Sprigg, C. A., & Jackson, P. R. (2006). Call centers as lean service environments: Job-related strain and the mediating role of work design. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 11, 197212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stein, B. A. (1983). Quality of work life in action: Managing for effectiveness. New York, NY: American Management Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sternberg, H., Stefansson, G., Westernberg, E., Boije af Gennäs, R., Allenström, E., & Linger Nauska, M. (2012). Applying a lean approach to identify waste in motor carrier operations. International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, 62(1), 4765.Google ScholarPubMed
Stone, K. B. (2012). Four decades of Lean: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, 3(2), 112132. doi: 10.1108/20401461211243702.Google Scholar
Swank, C. K. (2003). The lean service machine. Harvard Business Review, 81(10), 123130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor, F. W. (1914). The principles of scientific management. New York, NY: Harper.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tortorella, G. L., de Castro Fettermann, D., Frank, A., & Marodin, G. (2018). Lean manufacturing implementation: Leadership styles and contextual variables. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 38(5), 12051227.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Trist, E., & Bamforth, K. W. (1951). Some social and psychological consequences of the long-wall method of coal-getting. Human Relations, 4, 338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ulhassan, W., Westerlund, H., Thor, J., Sandahl, C., & Von Thiele Schwarz, U. (2014). Does Lean implementation interact with group functioning? Journal of Health Organization and Management, 28(2), 196213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Assen, M. F. (2018). Exploring the impact of higher management’s leadership styles on Lean management. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 29(11–12), 13121341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Dun, D. H., Hicks, J. N., & Wilderom, C. P. (2017). Values and behaviors of effective lean managers: Mixed-methods exploratory research. European Management Journal, 35(2), 174186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Dun, D., & Wilderom, C. P. (2016). Lean-team effectiveness through leader values and members’ informing. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 36(11), 15301550.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Van Landeghem, H. (2014). A management system for sustainable lean implementation. In Modrák, V. and Semano, P. (Eds.), Handbook of research on design and management of lean production systems (pp. 173187). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Von Thiele Schwarz, U., Nielsen, K. M., Stenfors-Hayes, T., & Hasson, H. (2017). Using kaizen to improve employee well-being: Results from two organizational intervention studies. Human Relations, 70(8), 966993.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Waldman, D. A. (1994). The contributions of total quality management to a theory of work performance. Academy of Management Review, 19(3), 510536.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Westgaard, R. H., & Winkel, J. (2011). Occupational musculoskeletal and mental health: Significance of rationalization and opportunities to create sustainable production systems–a systematic review. Applied Ergonomics, 42(2), 261296.Google Scholar
Wilkens, R., & London, M. (2006). Relationships between climate, process, and performance in continuous quality improvement groups. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 69(3), 510523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Williams, H., & Duray, R. (2013). Making IT Lean: Applying Lean practices to the work of IT. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
Womack, J. P. (1996). The psychology of Lean production. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 45(2), 119122.Google Scholar
Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T. (2003). Lean thinking: Banish waste and create wealth in your corporation. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
Womack, J. P., & Jones, D. T. (2005). Lean solutions: How companies and customers can create value and wealth together. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
Womack, J. P., Jones, D. T., & Roos, D. (1990). The machine that changed the world. New York, NY: MacMillan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zickar, M. J., & Highhouse, S. (2001). Measuring prestige of journals in industrial-organizational psychology. The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 38(4), 2936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Revolution or 30-year fad? A role for I-O psychology in Lean management
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Revolution or 30-year fad? A role for I-O psychology in Lean management
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Revolution or 30-year fad? A role for I-O psychology in Lean management
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *