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Leadership role in implementing Lean Six Sigma – a cross case analysis of KPO/BPO service organizations

Naresh N. Motiani (Faculty of Management, Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune, India)
Abhay Kulkarni (Department of Management, IICMR, Pune, India)

International Journal of Innovation Science

ISSN: 1757-2223

Article publication date: 8 April 2021

Issue publication date: 9 June 2021




The purpose of this paper is to study the role of leadership in implementing Lean Six Sigma (LSS) in a knowledge process outsourcing/business process outsourcing (KPO/BPO) service environment. KPO/BPO organizations present unique operational challenges such as client contractual obligations, young worker age profile, high attrition, dynamic outsourced business processes, technological disruptions to list a few. To implement LSS in such an environment, leadership plays a crucial role. While it is known that leadership is a critical success factor for LSS implementation, their role in a recently evolved KPO/BPO sector is hardly studied leading to high failures. The present study aims to address this gap.


A qualitative case study research method is used. A case study protocol consisting of research outline, data collection plan, interview schedule and list of expert reviewers was prepared. A semi-structured interview schedule of the case organization was used that covered exploring the leadership role in terms of their leadership style, communication, employee engagement and their ability to guide program in entire LSS implementation process. Further depth is obtained by considering dimensions of LSS implementation process such as actors involved, processes adopted, performance outcomes, implementation challenges and competency requirements. Primary and secondary data from two case studies yielded rich insights and helped to answer the research questions around role of leadership in LSS implementation for the KPO/BPO service environment.


This research case study demonstrates key leadership competencies that lead to successful implementation of LSS in two KPO/BPO organizations. To handle implementation challenges, a combination of LSS and transformation style of leadership style was observed. Leadership role focussed on coaching and empowering, rather than telling and controlling. Apart from the 17 leadership competencies seen in published literature, the authors observed 12 specific competencies (7 interpersonal and 5 LSS) in two case organizations that enabled effective LSS implementation. This study also gives an in depth understanding of the leadership role and enabling competencies during LSS implementation.

Research limitations/implications

Because of the inherent limitations of case study research method, researchers and practitioners must be cautious to the extent of generalization of findings and the conclusions.

Practical implications

Positioning leadership to managing the LSS implementation in KPO/BPO service operations helps in innovative adaption of standard improvement methodologies (such as LSS) to address their specific problems and deliver on the overall organizational goals.


Current study explores in depth how leadership role impacts LSS implementation in two KPO/BPO case organizations. Studies focussing on LSS service operations model in a KPO/BPO environment are not extensively published, especially those covering leadership role during LSS implementation.



Motiani, N.N. and Kulkarni, A. (2021), "Leadership role in implementing Lean Six Sigma – a cross case analysis of KPO/BPO service organizations", International Journal of Innovation Science, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 249-267.



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