Recent studies show that all types of organizations can benefit from the lean philosophy. Organizations in the early part of the organizational life cycle, a context that has largely been ignored in the literature, experience dramatic changes over their lives and because the organizational context changes, the tools and techniques used as part of a lean strategy should also change throughout the life cycle. This correlational study examined whether the lean tools and techniques advocated as part of a lean philosophy have different effectiveness for improving productivity throughout the organizational life cycle. Production managers from organizations in the Midwest were surveyed to determine how effective the lean tools were in their organizations. Lean tool effectiveness was assessed and evaluated for organizations in two halves of the organizational life cycle. Lean tools were examined in categories separated by general purpose; quality/continuous improvement tools, lean process tools, and support system tools. The survey had a 47% return rate resulting in a precision of +/- 6%. Response bias was negligible. Results show that while all the lean tools work together to effectively improve productivity in mature organizations; in young organizations the quality/continuous improvement tools and lean process tools are perceived as less effective for improving productivity than the lean support tools. Results indicate that new and young organizations should implement the lean support tools early in their life cycle. The lean quality/continuous improvement tools and lean process tools are more beneficial after processes have become more stable and are moving toward standardization.
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