Enhancing Lean Interventions through the use of Systems Thinking in the food production industry: a case in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria

Daniel Ebakoleaneh Ufua, Thanos Papadopoulos, Gerald Midgley


This paper discusses how Lean Thinking (Lean), can be enhanced through the use of Systems Thinking (ST) tools and methodologies. Lean has emerged as a process improvement philosophy aiming to enhance value through identifying and eradicating waste through, inter alia, various tools. However, Lean tends to focus narrow stakeholder input, their views and their agendas, leaving out the impact of the operational process on the other relevant stakeholders that may be affected by the system. Such a narrow view has an impact on Lean implementation and adoption, and on its success in improving processes and sustaining changes. To address this gap, we argue for the use of Systemic Lean Intervention (SLI) by combining Lean and Systems tools, using a case of a commercial livestock farm in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. We suggest that SLI can assist in a wider acceptance of Lean improvements and we highlight constraints related to SLI including the autocratic leadership style and boundary rigidities, which hinder effective team play. Finally, it is noted that this approach would require time to be adopted and used in the particular context.

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