How lean are financial service companies really? Empirical evidence from a large scale study in Germany

Michael Leyer (ProcessLab, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Frankfurt, Germany)
Jürgen Moormann (ProcessLab, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Frankfurt, Germany)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Publication date: 30 September 2014



Lean thinking is important for a successful implementation of process-driven changes. Especially financial service providers are forced to improve their organisational efficiency due to intense competition and regulatory burdens. The purpose of this paper is to identify how lean financial service companies in Germany are.


A quantitative survey published online is used. In total, 3,624 employees from every hierarchical level participated in the study.


The results not only reveal that there is only a moderate lean thinking in financial service companies. We rather observe a “lean fata morgana”. Employees in general believe they are leaner than their actual behaviour discloses. In addition, managers perceive their work environment leaner than subordinates do. At the same time, managers do not behave lean as they spend almost a third of their working time with operational work instead of guiding the employees.

Research limitations/implications

Answers are based on the anonymous, subjective ratings of employees and thus statements regarding single organisations cannot be made.

Practical implications

The results can be used by managers to address typical weak aspects when introducing lean management to improve the success chances. Furthermore, the questionnaire can be applied for assessments for a single organisation before an introduction of lean.


For the first time, this paper presents results which cover the lean degree beyond a single company’s perspective. The results allow for an indication which aspects of lean are unincisive with regard to functional areas and hierarchical levels of financial service providers.



Leyer, M. and Moormann, J. (2014), "How lean are financial service companies really? Empirical evidence from a large scale study in Germany", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 34 No. 11, pp. 1366-1388.

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