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Origins of lean management in America: The role of Connecticut businesses

M.L. Emiliani (School of Technology, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, Connecticut, USA)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 1 April 2006




The purpose of this paper is to provide a historical account of the significant role that Connecticut businesses and business leaders had in the spread of Lean management throughout the USA. The paper aims to describe what happens when managers do not understand and apply an important principle of Lean management.


Survey of published and unpublished records, as well as personal communications with key figures.


Establishes the role and importance of Connecticut businesses and business leaders in the discovery and dissemination of Lean management in America since 1979, external to Toyota and its affiliated suppliers.

Research limitations/implications

The accuracy of some past events necessarily relies on the recollection of key figures that were obtained by personal communications.

Practical implications

Describes how an important principle, “respect for people,” was not understood by most management practitioners, thus hindering efforts to correctly practice Lean management and improve business performance.


The paper provides a historical account of Lean management in America, focusing on activities that occurred in the State of Connecticut post‐1979. Description and relevance of a key area of misunderstanding among practitioners of the Lean management system.



Emiliani, M.L. (2006), "Origins of lean management in America: The role of Connecticut businesses", Journal of Management History, Vol. 12 No. 2, pp. 167-184.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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