Lean Leadership in Major Projects: From 'Predict and Provide' to 'Predict and Prevent'

Holweg, Matthias and Maylor, Harvey (2018) Lean Leadership in Major Projects: From 'Predict and Provide' to 'Predict and Prevent'. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 38 (6). pp. 1368-1386.

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Purpose: This paper contributes to the understanding of the context of major projects and their management from an Operations and Supply Chain Management (OSCM) perspective; we provide a foundation for exploring how the body of work on lean thinking (our ‘old’ theory) can contribute to the development of major projects (the ‘new’ context). In doing so, it extends the prevailing economic approach to major projects (best described as ‘predict and provide’) and posits the development of an alternative approach based on extending the logic of lean thinking to this new context (referred to as ‘predict and prevent’).

Design methodology / approach: The paper investigates the scope for adopting lean thinking in the context of major projects. To this effect we review the current state of both lean thinking and major project management, and use ‘Universal Credit’ as an exploratory case study to illustrate and verify our arguments in practice.

Findings: Two main findings are proposed: First, we demonstrate the inherent performance challenge of major projects in OSCM terms, which we argue presents a significant opportunity for the application of OSCM concepts to improve major project performance. Second, using lean thinking as framing, we identify three distinct process levels and common wastes in major projects, and identify five principles for how lean could improve the delivery of major projects.

Research limitations / implications: Major projects present a relatively untapped area for OSCM research; based on our exploratory case we propose ways how OSCM concepts can be applied to this new context. Further research will be needed to validate and generalise this application.

Practical implications: Major projects, including organisational transformations, IT-enabled change, major events and large infrastructure projects, constitute a large proportion of economic activity. Despite their prominence, however, they are also commonly associated with low success rates. This paper provides one route for exploring how a successful set of principles could be applied to improving their performance.

Originality / value: This work translates a popular set of ideas from OSCM to strengthening a relatively neglected context within OSCM. An agenda for further research is suggested to support the development of this application.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Operations and Supply Chain Management practices; major projects; lean thinking; agile; theory of constraints; systems levels; leadership.
Subject(s): Operations management
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 11:01
Last Modified: 20 Nov 2018 16:41
Funders: N/A
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/6800

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