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Sustaining Sweden’s competitive position: lean lifelong learning

Raine Isaksson (Department of Engineering Sciences, Uppsala University, Sweden)
Rickard Garvare (Department of Business Administration, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden)
Mikael Johnson (Service Research Center, Karlstad University, Kalrstad, Sweden)
Christer Kuttainen (Norrbotten County Council, Norbotten, Sweden)
Jörg Pareigis (CTF - Service Research Center/ SAMOT (Service and Market Oriented Transport Research Group), Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden)

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 16 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to explore what options the adult learner has for continued learning and what role universities are playing in providing net-based education. Current options for lifelong learning and improvement opportunities in the educational process are described based on an assessment inspired by principles of lean management.


Sweden is chosen as an example. The current level of net-based university education and the demand for it is assessed using official Swedish data. Lean management principles are used as a starting point to define parameters for interest for the adult learner. These parameters are then converted into a five-level scale for assessing current performance with focus on university courses. The authors also study how Swedish County Councils manage their employee education and carry out a check of courses offered by massive open online course providers.


Lean management principles in combination with customer focus seem to present relevant parameters for assessing distance education. Preliminary results indicate that lean lifelong learning has a considerable improvement potential. The main reasons for this potential seem to be more of a bureaucratic and political nature, whereas technology and resources appear to be less of an issue.

Practical implications

The results have implications for both universities and organisations. The pressure on universities to become more customer-focussed, while at the same time, cost-effectiveness is likely to increase.


Using the customer perspective for educational services and applying lean principles to education.



Isaksson, R., Garvare, R., Johnson, M., Kuttainen, C. and Pareigis, J. (2015), "Sustaining Sweden’s competitive position: lean lifelong learning", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 92-102.



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