Strategic lean actions for sustainable competitive advantage

Cory R.A. Hallam, Ricardo Valerdi, Carolina Contreras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to add to the quality management body of knowledge by solidifying the connection between operational and strategic aspects of lean transformation. Previous research has examined these issues in isolation, demonstrating mixed results in financial and operational efficiencies. The authors show that when operational and strategic changes are jointly considered the likelihood of success for lean transformation increases. Design/methodology/approach: The authors provide a literature review of 109 peer-reviewed papers on lean manufacturing and qualitative analysis of 23 Baldrige award winners (2000-2014) that implemented lean to assess the importance of strategic actions in achieving a sustainable competitive advantage through lean transformation. Findings: The authors find that lean transformation yields mixed results unless strategic actions are taken by senior management. These strategic actions include but are not limited to knowledge management, human resources, and business growth and can result in performance heterogeneity by improving the output/input ratio of the firm. This performance can then manifest as either doing the same level of business with fewer resources (a profit play) or doing more business with the same resources (a growth play). As specific examples, the authors analyzed Baldrige award winners for evidence of lean strategic action to drive performance gains. The authors suggest further model validation through directed interview and/or survey research. Originality/value: This paper clarifies the need for jointly implementing lean tools with strategic actions. The findings provide more deliberate strategic actions for organizations wishing to increase the likelihood of success of lean transformation and ultimately improve quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-509
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Quality and Reliability Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018


  • Baldrige award
  • Lean management
  • Lean manufacturing
  • Operations strategy
  • Strategic action

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management


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