The purpose of this paper is to analyse through ethnographic fieldwork the social and cultural context and (unintended) consequences of introducing a management concept from the private sector (LEAN) into the public sector.
Ethnographic fieldwork combined with reading of reports and material.
The major findings are: first, Lean is seen in a cultural context, it is argued that the persuasiveness of Lean depends on building a metaphorical connection between organizational aims and individual experiences and bodily ideals; second, Lean purports to be a win-win game and road to eliminating “waste” through worker participation, empowerment and enthusiasm. The research points to the contrary. Lean was met with scepticism and was seen by the social workers as a waste of time.
As demonstrated in the paper, the vast majority of research published about Lean is hortatory in nature. It is recipe books trying to convince readers of the benefits of introducing Lean. This paper, on the contrary, attempts an open ethnographic exploration of the Lean process and its social and cultural ramifications.
Krause-Jensen, J. (2017), "Trimming the social body: An analysis of Lean management among family counsellors in a Danish municipality", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 68-86. https://doi.org/10.1108/JOE-01-2017-0005
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