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Exploring the emotional experience of lean

Siobhan Taylor (CU Scarborough, Coventry University, Coventry, UK )
Robert McSherry (University of Chester, Chester, UK)
Susy Cook (Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Shrewsbury, UK)
Emma Giles (Teesside University, Middlesbrough, UK)

Journal of Health Organization and Management

ISSN: 1477-7266

Article publication date: 10 November 2020

Issue publication date: 5 February 2021




This research aims to contribute to the literature on Lean implementation in healthcare by studying the emotional experiences of the relevant actors related to a Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW) in a UK healthcare context. The purpose of this study was to go beyond what people think about Lean and towards an exploration of their subjective, emotional and “feeling” experience and whether that emotional experience influenced Lean implementation.


A phenomenological and symbolic interactionist qualitative case study was undertaken. Data related to participants' emotional experience were collected through non-participant observation and semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using thematic network analysis.


This paper provides novel insights into the emotional experience of Lean as experienced through an RPIW. The findings reveal that participation in an RPIW is much more than a technical process. It influences how people feel about themselves, is based on relationships with others, and requires mental, physical and emotional effort. All of these factors influence engagement with, initiation of and sustainability of the RPIW.

Research limitations/implications

A new conceptual framework for the planning and implementation of RPIWs has been developed. However, because of the chosen research approach, the results may lack generalisability. Therefore, researchers are encouraged to test the framework and proposed practice implications.


Despite emotions being an integral part of individual and social everyday life, emotional experience has not been studied in relation to Lean. This study is the first to explore emotions in relation to Lean, with implications for practice as to how RPIWs are managed with a new framework for implementation being proposed.



Taylor, S., McSherry, R., Cook, S. and Giles, E. (2021), "Exploring the emotional experience of lean", Journal of Health Organization and Management, Vol. 35 No. 1, pp. 34-52.



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Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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