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Towards an understanding of the HRM bundle for lean service in the UK

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posted on 05.03.2019 by Araz A. Zirar
Applying the principles of lean enables service organisations to improve service delivery processes and provide customers with better value. A growing body of evidence suggests that without a proper utilisation of enabling human resource management (HRM) practices, service organisations fail to orient their employees to conduct lean projects and support its practices. Enabling HRM practices provide supportive activities that assist organisations to direct their workforce to support lean practices. How service organisations utilise enabling HRM practices for that purpose has, as yet, not received significant attention in the existing literature. This study sets out to explore enabling HRM practices to support lean service. It is a scholarly attempt to thoroughly understand how service organisations utilise these practices to support their lean programmes. In doing so, it attempts to answer how relevant enabling HRM practices are to lean service and what those practices are. It also answers how and why these practices are utilised to support lean service. The research is based on five case studies directed towards answering an exploratory research question. Such a question grants the choice of a case study as an appropriate research strategy to collect contextual qualitative data through naturalistic data collection techniques. Purposive sampling is utilised to select the case studies and cross comparison is conducted for in-depth analysis. The case study organisations were adjudged to be at four lean maturity stages according to S-curve theory (Netland and Ferdows, 2016): Beginner , In-transition , Advanced and Cutting-edge , thus providing a richness of data reflecting variety of similar and different service activities and lean maturity stages. A total of thirty-one semi-structured interviews including four to eight interviews from each organisation were conducted. The interviews were supplemented with observation during site visits and multiple sources of secondary data. The data was coded by means of the NVIVO 10 software package. Rigorous thematic analysis was conducted with reference to Braun and Clark s (2006) six-stage approach of theme generation and 15-point checklist for good thematic analysis. As a main contribution, the analysis identifies 18 enabling HRM practices to support lean service: recruitment and selection, role profiling, capacity planning, absence management, retention and release, succession planning, training, career development, performance management, reward and recognition, groups and teamwork, employee voice, employee communication and collaboration, labour relations, employee motivation, employee involvement, employee empowerment and employee health and safety. The novelty of the research lies in providing a comprehensive list of practices which is rooted in contextual data and reflects the real-world context. The identified 18 enabling HRM practices lead to the development of a novel HRM bundle that covers seven areas of activities of people management to support lean service: (i) employee resourcing, (ii) training and development, (iii) performance management, (iv) reward and recognition, (v) employee relations, (vi) employee behaviour and (vii) employee health and safety. Furthermore, the lean-specific HRM bundle is used to develop a PDCA (plan-do-check-act), based on the Deming Cycle (Deming, 2000), showing lean service planning, provision and monitoring. Moreover, the bundle theory, contingency and configuration theories are used to explain bundling HRM practices and justify the findings. Borrowing bundle theory (Casullo, 1988) to justify bundling HRM practices serves as another novelty of this research. It is evidently clear from the findings that this study provides an empirical and grounded understanding of enabling HRM practices to support lean service. The theoretical contribution of the thesis is therefore elaborating, refining and extending the existing understanding of enabling HRM practices to support lean service. In addition, the practical contribution is increasing the awareness of service organisations of the 18 enabling HRM practices, a lean-specific HRM bundle of seven areas of activities of people management and a continuous improvement model that they can utilise to orient their employees to support lean programmes.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Araz Zirar

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.