25 Years of Lean Publishing

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The purpose of this paper is to take a critical, analytical approach to explore the growth and spread of Lean through the academic and practitioner community over the last 25 years to understand the impact of the book The Machine that Changed the World on management thinking.

A comprehensive and systematic review of the extant literature of lean was undertaken and analysed critically to observe patterns and trends that could explain the acceptance of Lean as an operations management philosophy. The review spans from 1987 to 2013. To enable us to effectively manage and understand the diffusion of this literature a database, the Lean Publications Database, was constructed. The number of publications has been adjusted to compensate for growth in the total number of articles published in the same period.

Lean has evolved to be one of the best-known, yet fiercely debated, process improvement methodologies. It emerged during a proliferation of such methodologies in the business and management literature. Lean has developed from a generic description of Toyota Production System (TPS) to a particular type of organisational and management intervention focused on best practice and process improvement methodologies.