Exploration of internal service systems using lean principles

John Maleyeff (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hartford, Connecticut, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 1 June 2006



The purpose of this paper is to attempt to provide insight into the management of an internal service system derived from a perspective of Lean management. These internal service systems would exist within professional service units of development, engineering, information technology, human resources, and consumer affairs.


A meta‐analysis of approximately 60 internal service systems was performed. The objectives of the meta‐analysis were: identification of structural similarities; categorization of wasteful activities; tabulation of typical problems; and synthesis and exploration.


Internal service systems have numerous common structural characteristics, including the importance of information, process flows across functions, many hand‐offs of information, hidden costs and benefits, and no explicit motivation for urgency. The wasteful activities can be classified into seven groups: delays, reviews, mistakes, duplication, movement, processing inefficiencies, and resource inefficiencies. The most common problems included a lack of standard procedures, long service times, communication breakdowns, and poor personnel management.

Research limitations/implications

Critical insights valuable to a manager of an internal service system are: it is likely that the main service provided is information; it is likely that cross‐functional coordination is required; and it is likely that people play a critical role in the system's performance. These insights can form the basis of cross‐function cooperative improvement efforts.


The paper presents the first known large‐scale assessment of problems and opportunities in applying Lean principles to internal service systems.



Maleyeff, J. (2006), "Exploration of internal service systems using lean principles", Management Decision, Vol. 44 No. 5, pp. 674-689. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251740610668914

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