Top-12 most common lean principles

It has become extremely popular for companies in any business to pursue the principles of lean production, Six Sigma, TQM, TPM etc. A new development in recent years is that multinational companies develop global and group-wide systems for process improvement based on all these concepts: The XPS. Then, what are the top XPS/lean principles in use?

The XPS incorporates the principles that the companies finds most important to them. Since companies differ one should expect XPSs to differ – representing an own-best-way paradigm. However, one reason for embarking on an XPS journey is well explained by Yu and Zaheer (2010, p. 475): “One popular approach for a firm to catch up with world-class standards is to benchmark and adopt organisational practices already proven effective by global market leaders”. If this is the case, practices are likely to be replicated between firms – representing an one-best-way paradigm. So what now? Do companies share, or not share, the same XPS principles?

In my paper “Exploring the phenomenon of company-specific Production Systems: One-best-way or own-best-way?“, published in the International Journal of Production Research, I analyse the content of XPSs belonging to the following 30 multinational companies:

The paper concludes that:

XPSs largely represent variants of the same in content. They represent an own-best-way approach to the one-best-way paradigm. (…) A tight relationship to the Toyota Production System (TPS) and lean production is established. (…)
XPSs from different industries do to some extent respond to industry-specific requirements; but it is the emphasis on different lean principles that varies, not the common roots in lean per se.

I found that the top-12 XPS principles among the 30 firms were as follows:

Number of occurances of most important lean principles among 30 XPSs (Source: Netland, 2012)


So, now we know that the content of different XPSs are pretty similar across companies – but that does not mean that they are blue prints of each other or the Toyota Production System. No two XPSs contain exactly the same principles among the 30 in the paper. In fact, research shows that improvement processes takes very different forms when sought implemented in companies.  Even though the content of the intended system appears alike, the process and actual application differ substantially when XPSs meet reality…


Following the one-best-way is not monkey business – it can be a key to success