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A directed content analysis of viewpoints on the changing patterns of Lean Six Sigma research

Bryan A. Rodgers (Department of Business Management, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Jiju Antony (Department of Quality Management, School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK)
Zhen He (College of Management and Economics, Tianjin Normal University, Tianjin, China)
Elizabeth A. Cudney (Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering, Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri, USA)
Chad Laux (Department of Computer and Information Technology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 13 June 2019

Issue publication date: 21 June 2019




The purpose of this paper, builds on previous studies that explored the research patterns over 15 years, is to consider the current status of the integration of Lean and Six Sigma. More specifically, this research addresses whether Lean and Six Sigma are stronger together and explores the reasons why Lean researchers and practitioners may be less likely to integrate Six Sigma in their work.


The research utilises a survey of 25 established and respected academics and practitioners from 16 countries. The questionnaire is analysed using a direct content approach and coded in NVivo.


The findings suggest that challenges may lie in the perception and understanding of statistics as well as short-term rather than long-term focus on improvement. The findings also suggest that academics and practitioners believe that Lean Six Sigma has developed over time and will continue to develop and improve as a methodology rather than being replaced with a new methodology.

Research limitations/implications

The survey has a sample size of 25, albeit all respondents are established and very experienced practitioners and academics.

Practical implications

For organisations that are introducing or refreshing their continuous improvement initiatives, this research identifies some of the challenges and provides the opportunity to address them to maximise the opportunities for success and sustainability.


The value of this paper is that it further addresses the debate over the integration of Lean and Six Sigma for many organisations which still employ Lean alone, but beyond this it explores how they will continue to develop and whether they are a permanent edition to the quality management landscape or a transition to something else.



Rodgers, B.A., Antony, J., He, Z., Cudney, E.A. and Laux, C. (2019), "A directed content analysis of viewpoints on the changing patterns of Lean Six Sigma research", The TQM Journal, Vol. 31 No. 4, pp. 641-654.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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