Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to study the effects of lean in a longitudinal context. Lean is currently experiencing its second coming. In spite of this, the current body of research on lean is especially lacking in longitudinal studies. Design/methodology/approach: The methodology used in this study is a longitudinal case study. The authors combined elements of multiple-case study and survey research by analyzing interview data on the same 23 Finnish manufacturing firms at three distinct points in time (1993, 2004 and 2010) with a methodology called qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) that is novel to the field. Findings: The “thick” results of our exploratory contingency theoretic analysis suggest that the holistic and adaptive use of lean bundles is effective. It seems that especially the firm status of ownership and the phase of the business cycle exert an impact on successful lean bundle use. There is also evidence that a certain maturation effect takes place within lean bundle use: lean is increasingly being used as a complete management philosophy. Research limitations/implications: The authors hope that this research encourages researchers to use more QCA in their research, especially with small samples. Originality/value: This is a unique longitudinal study on the same 23 manufacturing firms and their development. Furthermore, this study opens new avenues for lean theory development, introduces a new methodology to the field and helps decision makers to gain a better understanding of the long-term dynamics of lean.
- Best practices
- Lean production