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Lean Six Sigma leadership in higher education institutions

Jing Lu (Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation, Purdue University, West Layfayette, Indiana, USA)
Chad Laux (Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation, Purdue University, West Layfayette, Indiana, USA)
Jiju Antony (Department of Business Management, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 12 June 2017




The purpose of this paper is to critically evaluate whether a Lean Six Sigma (LSS) leadership model could be effectively utilized to resolve efficiency and effective issues like rising costs, quality of education, graduation and retention rates encountered in higher education institutions (HEIs) in the modern era.


The authors systematically reviewed the literature on key concepts of LSS and leadership in HEIs in to develop a theoretical model using an inductive theory-building approach in accordance with the exploratory nature of the study.


The results of the study proposed a conceptual LSS leadership framework, which provides a basis for testing of LSS leadership representations in HEIs. The results suggest that LSS leadership has advantages for HEI to overcome currents issues and challenges.

Research limitations/implications

This research is a theoretical study based on the existing literature that identified characteristics that may be adopted in higher education. The proposed LSS leadership framework is based upon leadership, statistical thinking, continuous change and improvement. This model is based upon service and the concepts of adaptive, rather than technical work, of leaders in higher education.

Practical implications

The proposed LSS leadership framework brings new aspects and perspectives of leadership in HEIs. LSS leadership model has its practical meaning in providing a fundamental base for HEIs to overcome challenges, fulfill missions, and sustain improvements.

Social implications

HEIs are a foundation for principles of democracy, equality and diversity. HEIs have been a path for citizens but HEIs are facing challenges that are reducing the ability of individuals to improve themselves. Leadership of HEI needs to incorporate new principles to adapt to a changing society.


LSS project leaders have achieved improved bottom line results and customer satisfaction in a wide range of industries, but LSS application in the HEIs remains to be explored. This paper proposes an effective LSS leadership model, which can help improve the quality of education, reduce non-value added costs and enhance operational efficiency of HEIs.



Lu, J., Laux, C. and Antony, J. (2017), "Lean Six Sigma leadership in higher education institutions", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 66 No. 5, pp. 638-650.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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