Examining the mediating role of innovative capabilities in the interplay between lean processes and sustainable performance

Himanshu Rathore, Suresh Kumar Jakhar, Arijit Bhattacharya, E. Madhumitha

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32 Citations (Scopus)
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Literature, heretofore, has assumed the relationship between ‘lean’ systems and their sustainable performance as direct and static. Researchers have explored this relationship from various perspectives and have taken clear sides, as to whether lean practices are favourable or inimical to the sustainable performance of a firm. We argue that the ‘for (or) against’ debate has been overstretched and has assumed some contingencies that are uncalled for. This study offers a novel perspective of gauging the relationship between lean practices and a firm’s sustainable performance from a dynamic stance. It recognizes that this relationship has both, synergistic and discordant phases. Synergistic phase revs up the sustainable performance and discordant phase is inimical to the sustainable performance of the firm. We propose that lean processes can positively (or) negatively affect a firm’s sustainable performance depending upon the state of innovative capability of the firm. In this regard, we present an iterative and recursive two-phase framework which draws upon the principles of a metaheuristics and is undergirded in dynamic capability theory. This framework discusses the ‘switching behaviour’ of the firm controlled by decoupling point. Switching behaviour determines how a firm should manoeuvre its innovation strategy. The framework was tested by using primary and secondary data (content analysis) in order to triangulate the results. This framework puts forth a set of generic guidelines, which the firms can decipher in their own idiosyncratic environments to bring about the required synergy between their lean processes and innovative capabilities. This synergy shall ensure that the ‘the engines of their sustainable growth’ are always fired up.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Production Economics
Early online date2 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020


  • Lean
  • Innovation
  • Dynamic Capabilities
  • Sustainability
  • Metaheuristic analogy

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