Path dependency to path creation: enabling strategic lean implementation

those changes are driven by external forces such as market conditions or client demands, or are instigated by the business itself. However, path dependencies exist within businesses that entrench ways of working which can influence their ability to respond to change. Path dependency refers to the idea that events and decisions that have taken place in the past continue to influence current decisions and ways of working. This paper proposes that path dependencies inhibit lean change and that only when they are identified and understood can they be overcome, enabling new paths to be created and organisational lean strategies to be implemented effectively in practice. Building on Morrey et al (2010), the paper describes action research carried out in a case study company which evidences that path dependencies have inhibited the implementation of their lean strategy. These path dependencies are identified therefore as either enablers or barriers to lean change. It therefore follows that lean strategies cannot be implemented effectively unless these path dependencies are understood and accounted for, and that taking account of path dependencies needs to be foregrounded in the lean debate. Had these path dependencies been understood at the time of the implementing the lean strategies, rather than retrospectively in order to understand why they had not played out in practice as planned, the lean strategies could have accounted for these entrenched ways of working and been more effective. Further to this, the paper suggests that it is only when path dependencies are understood that path dependencies can be overcome/capitalised upon, or new paths can be created. Proposals to overcome and capitalise upon the path dependencies uncovered in the case study company are discussed, with acknowledgement that these new paths could become the path dependencies of the future!