Leveraging Lean in the Office: Lean Office Needs a Novel and Differentiated Approach


Lean Six Sigma tools have been increasingly employed also in the service industry, however with different success as field studies have shown. The reason not only has to be attributed to a poor Change Management, but can also be attributed to the intrinsic characteristics of the Lean techniques, which have been tailored to sustain a stable customer-takted pull-manufacturing principle. An office workplace shows significant differences to a procedural shop floor environment, as it comprises both, procedural and relational processes. The office environment, therefore, cannot be described by a purely transactional shop floor model—it necessitates a separate model, with a differenciated approach, which covers the procedural as well as the relational aspects of office tasks. Also the different characteristics of the transaction object as well as the operation transformation and process governance do not allow an un-adapted application of Toyota’s comprehensive Lean toolset. The approach of Lean for the office environment needs a reinterpretation of the Lean logic and TPS Lean tools for the procedural part as well. Therefore, different and adapted approaches and tools are clearly necessary. The paper shows the objectives and principles of Lean and why Lean manufacturing is also interesting to be applied in the office environment. The differences between office and production jobs are detailed and introduce the problem of lean application in the office. The particular characteristics of the office environment are discussed and enable to enter into the Relational Office Model. Furthermore, we explain the paradigm shift which is necessary to take full benefit of the Lean approach in the office environment, however without presenting the reinterpreted office Lean toolset due to space reasons. This will be the topic of a next paper.

Share and Cite:

Rüttimann, B. , Fischer, U. and Stöckli, M. (2014) Leveraging Lean in the Office: Lean Office Needs a Novel and Differentiated Approach. Journal of Service Science and Management, 7, 352-360. doi: 10.4236/jssm.2014.75032.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Ohno, T. (1988) Toyota Production System—Beyond Large Scale Production. Productivity Press, New York.
[2] Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T. and Roos, D. (1990) The Machine That Changed the World. Free Press, New York.
[3] George, M.L. (2003) Lean Six Sigma for Service. McGraw-Hill, New York.
[4] Association for Manufacturing Excellence (2007) Lean Administration—Case Studies in Leadership and Improvement. Productivity Press, New York.
[5] Ruttimann, B.G., Fischer, U.P. and Stockli, M.T. (2011) Aufstieg und Fall von Six Sigma... oder warum heute Lean wichtiger ist. iO new Management, Springer, Axel Springer Schweiz, Zurich.
[6] Chen, J.C. and Cox, R.A. (2012) Value Stream Management for Lean Office—A Case Study. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 2, 17-19.
[7] Bonaccorsi, A., Carmignani, G. and Zammori, F. (2011) Service Value Stream Mapping (SVSM): Developing Lean Thinking in the Service Industry. Journal of Service Science and Management, 4, 428-439.
[8] Ruttimann, B., Waldner, H., Adam, M. And Stockli, M. (2012) Lean Six Sigma in der Schweiz—Explorative Studie zur Standortbestimmung. Inspire/ETH, SISE.
[9] Kahneman, D. (2012) Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin Books, London.

Copyright © 2021 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.