University of Oulu

Kropsu-Vehkapera, H., & Isoherranen, V. (2018). Lean approach in knowledge work. Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management, 11(3), 429-444. doi:

Lean approach in knowledge work

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Author: Kropsu-Vehkaperä, Hanna1; Isoherranen, Ville1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu (Finland)
2Kerttu Saalasti Institute (KSI) (Finland)
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: OmniaScience, 2018
Publish Date: 2018-05-25


Purpose: Knowledge work productivity is a key area of improvement for many organizations. Lean approach is a sustainable way to achieve operational excellence and can be applied in many areas. The purpose of this novel study is to examine the potential of using lean approach for improving knowledge work practices.

Design/methodology/approach: A systematic literature review has been carried out to study how lean approach is realized in knowledge work. The research is conceptual in nature and draws upon earlier research findings.

Findings: This study shows that lean studies’ in knowledge work is an emerging research area. This study documents the methods and practices implemented in knowledge work to date, and presents a knowledge work continuum, which is an essential framework for effective lean approach deployment and to frame future research focus in knowledge work productivity.

Research limitations/implications: This study structures the concept of knowledge work and outlines a concrete concept derived from earlier literature. The study summarizes the literature on lean in knowledge work and highlights, which methods are used. More research is needed to understand how lean can be implemented in complex knowledge work environment and not only on the repetitive knowledge work. The limitations of this research are due to the limited availability of previous research.

Practical implications: To analyze the nature of knowledge work, we implicate the areas where lean methods especially apply to improving knowledge work productivity. When applying lean in knowledge work context the focus should be using the people better and improving information flow.

Originality/value: This study focuses on adapting lean methods into a knowledge work context and summarizes earlier research done in this field. The study discusses the potential to improve knowledge work productivity by implementing lean methods and presents a unique knowledge work continuum to frame previous research and give focus for future research.

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Series: Journal of industrial engineering and management
ISSN: 2013-8423
ISSN-E: 2013-0953
ISSN-L: 2013-8423
Volume: 11
Issue: 3
Pages: 429 - 444
DOI: 10.3926/jiem.2595
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 222 Other engineering and technologies
Copyright information: © 2018 The Authors. Article’s contents are provided on an Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 Creative commons International License. Readers are allowed to copy, distribute and communicate article’s contents, provided the author’s and Journal of Industrial Engineering and Management’s names are included. It must not be used for commercial purposes. To see the complete license contents, please visit