Implementing lean management/Six Sigma in hospitals: beyond empowerment or work intensification?

Pauline Stanton, Richard Gough, Ruth Ballardie, Timothy Bartram, Greg John Bamber, Amrik Singh Sohal

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75 Citations (Scopus)


This article analyses a process improvement project based on Lean Six Sigma (LSS) techniques in the emergency department (ED) of a large Australian hospital. We consider perspectives of the clinical and managerial staff involved in the project implementation, its implications for empowerment and work intensification. We find that the project appeared to improve patient flow from the ED to the wards and to have positive implications for some staff. However, these achievements tended to be the result of senior staff using the project to leverage resources and create desirable outcomes, rather than the result of the use of LSS, in particular. We found some evidence of work intensification, but this was attributable to wider systemic issues and budget constraints, rather than being a direct consequence of the use of LSS. We argue that translating LSS from a manufacturing context into the politicised and professionalised context of healthcare changes the usual questions about empowerment or work intensification to questions about the influences of powerful stakeholders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2926 - 2940
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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