Improving Business Processes Through Enhanced Understanding of the Interactions of Lean, Waste, and Cognitive Factors in Work Places
Purushothaman, Mahesh Babu
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Over the last two decades, very few studies have identified bias influence on Lean and waste. Many operational analytical models assume people are rational, without cognitive influence, whereas research in economics, finance, and marketing incorporate how people influence their models, unlike operations. This study sought to answer the following research question (RQ) and sub-questions: RQ: What are the interactions between cognitive biases’ interventions, Lean tools, and waste types in organisational processes? Sub-questions: How can cognitive biases and stressors be identified and systematically understood to optimise the outcomes of an organisation? What are the system-wide cognitive bias interventions in workplaces that interact and influence waste and Lean tools in organisational processes? What are the different types of waste prevalent in organisations? What is the interaction between Lean tools and waste types? The research set out to obtain insights on the cognitive biases’ interaction with Lean tools and waste in organisations. The study adopted a qualitative narrative inquiry methodology within an interpretivism theoretical framework and constructivism epistemology to answer the above questions. The research design covered participants in different positions, work contexts, and varied experiences throughout a chosen process to gather their understandings of that particular process and their work habits. The research methodology and design were subjected to ethics review; only participants who volunteered were recruited, and confidentiality was assured in writing. The research design ensured reliability, validity, confirmability, credibility, and transferability for future implementation. The research was conducted at five organisations, which implemented Lean practices or demonstrated a willingness to take up Lean, involving seven different currently operating processes and recruited multi-cultural voluntary participants. The multiple sites and sources, combined with a system-wide case study approach adopted for data collection, included data, theory, methodological and environmental triangulation. In this research, the in-depth qualitative focus was attained through process observation, participant observation, and semi-structured interviews with open-ended questions. The participant position and experience distribution P values were well below 0.05, signifying the reliability of participants’ input to the study. This research used content analysis, narrative analysis, and framework analysis methods for data analysis to obtain interactions between cognitive bias, Lean tools, and waste. The findings establish that biases play an important role in Lean tools’ effectiveness and waste elimination. The study evidence supports the theory that there are system-wide interactions between cognitive biases, Lean tools, and waste in an organisational process. In general, this research adds the following distinctive contributions to the literature: A method to identify cognitive biases in a business process through a system-wide approach; A method to ascertain stressors in a business process through a system-wide approach; It identifies and classifies ten different waste categories in organisation and business processes through a system-wide approach; It identifies new biases present in business processes; It generalises biases that influence business process productivity; It maps the interaction of generalised biases with 25 specific Lean tools and ten waste categories; and It develops a Circle Slice Diagram for plotting the influence of three factors: cognitive bias, Lean tools, and waste categories.