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  • Riikka Maijala (a1), Sini Eloranta (a2) (a3), Tero Reunanen (a4) (a5) and Tuija S. Ikonen (a6)


Purpose: The aim of this study was to identify and analyze the characteristics of leadership and management associated with a successful Lean thinking adaptation in healthcare.

Design: A systematic literature review was undertaken using electronic databases: PubMed, PubMed Systematic Review, ABI/INFORM, Business Source Complete, Emerald, JBI, and Cinahl. Inclusion criteria were: (i) a description of Lean management or leadership in health care, (ii) a reference to Lean thinking, (iii) a peer-reviewed original research article or a literature review, and (iv) a full text article available in English. Among the 1,754 peer-reviewed articles identified, nine original articles and three systematic reviews met the inclusion criteria. Data on informants, methods, and settings were extracted and collated. Content analysis was used to conduct a review of the nine original studies describing and analyzing the success factors of Lean adaptation. The characteristics of leadership and management were analyzed by using the concept of a managerial windshield that divides leadership and management into four ontological dimensions: activities, style, focus, and purpose, each with typical developmental stages of skills and capabilities. The current study has some limitations: some papers from the journals not indexed in the searched databases may have been overlooked and the literature searches were carried out only for a 5-year period.

Findings: Considering the results using the windshield concept emphasizes the philosophy, principles, and tools of Lean thinking. Lean leadership and management factors in health care were mainly conceptualized as skills and capabilities such as problem solving, making changes occur, empowering, communicating, coaching, supporting, facilitating, being democratic, organizational learning, and organizational success, all of which represented middle-stage or advanced managerial skills and capabilities.

Practical Implications: A conceptual analysis of systematically reviewed studies of Lean leadership and management point to certain traits as being typical when adapting Lean thinking to health care. The concept of a managerial windshield is useful when categorizing and analyzing essential managerial skills and capabilities for Lean implementation. Findings are beneficial when learning and educating the skills required for Lean transformation in healthcare organizations.



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