Learning to evolve: A review of contemporary lean thinking

Peter Hines, Matthias Holwe, Nick Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1068 Citations (Scopus)


The application of lean thinking has made a significant impact both in academic and industrial circles over the last decade. Fostered by a rapid spread into many other industry sectors beyond the automotive industry, there has been a significant development and "localisation" of the lean concept. Despite successful "lean" applications in a range of settings however, the lean approach has been criticised on many accounts, such as the lack of human integration or its limited applicability outside high-volume repetitive manufacturing environments. The resulting lack of definition has led to confusion and fuzzy boundaries with other management concepts. Summarising the lean evolution, this paper comments on approaches that have sought to address some of the earlier gaps in lean thinking. Linking the evolution of lean thinking to the contingency and learning organisation schools of thought, the objective of this paper is to provide a framework for understanding the evolution of lean not only as a concept, but also its implementation within an organisation, and point out areas for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)994-1011
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Lean production
  • Learning organizations


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