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Conditions of Readiness to Support Sustainability of Lean in Public Services

Lean originated within Toyota Motor Corporation as a radical alternative to traditional mass production allowing optimal efficiency, quality, speed and cost. ‘Lean’ has become a popular approach to public service reform. In the current era of reduced public spending it promises to maintain service productivity, improve utilisation and maintain quality. Over the past few years’ questions have been raised regarding the content and design of lean as it is being transferred from a manufacturing to a public sector environment. Within public services lean may be a panacea as the evidence supports it addressing some of the inefficiencies caused by the poor design of processes. But it may also be a paradox as many public service managers appear to be applying it without fully understanding its underlying principles, seeing it as another policy or set of tools. 

This research aims to understand the importance of conditions, particularly readiness, in supporting sustainability of Lean in Public Services. It is hoped that through case study research across key public sector bodies contribution will be made to the understanding of how lean can be developed and sustained which may involve adapting processes as well as engaging staff in new ways of viewing the organisation.