Implementing Different Concepts of Lean Production: Workers' Experience of Lean Production in North American Transplants

Gough, Richard and Fastenau, Maureen (2003) Implementing Different Concepts of Lean Production: Workers' Experience of Lean Production in North American Transplants. Working Paper. Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.


Is there a "logic" to industrial capitalism and the market forces of an increasingly global economy which encourage work practices and employee management strategies of individual organizations and across national borders to become more similar? This paper responds to this question by considering the experience of workers in Japanese-Canadian and Japanese-American joint ventures and Japanese transplants in the North American automobile industry. The dissimilarities of the parent Japanese companies' lean production systems are highlighted before consideration is given to the factors which initially encourage adoption by North American subsidiaries of Japanese automobile companies of Japanese employee management techniques and the experiences of workers in these transplants which result in North American workers seeking to reassert more pluralist concepts and approaches to the employee-management relationship. By placing the development and implementation of the various Japanese versions of lean production into their cultural, technological, geographic, historical, and organizational contexts, this paper suggests the variety which flourishes even when conformity is seemingly evident. Consideration of Japanese efforts to import their management techniques into North America suggests both the contexts in which organizations, workforces, labor markets, and political structures are receptive to new management techniques and the strength of cultural, political, and labour relations institutions and practices to modify and recreate. The convergence-divergence debate, as with most dichotomies, demands one winner; reality is, however, more complex and forces not one choice, but rather fosters the creation of more options.

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Item type Monograph (Working Paper)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Management and Information Systems
Keywords lean production; workers' experience; North America; industrial capitalism; global economy; employee management techniques; employee-management relationship
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