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How Lean the Machine: How Agile the Mind?

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Learning Organization Volume 19, Number 3, ISSN 0969-6474


Purpose: Competition for resources appears to be increasing at a time of political, security (including energy, food and climate) and economic change; leading to potential collapse. The purpose of this conceptual paper is to examine the impact of policies exercised at the macro level on methods and processes applied at the micro level through, for example, performance management. It looks at the impact at the micro level on the macro and upon industry, innovation and the generation of productive wealth. It contrasts the techno-socio application of Lean with the socio-techno dynamics of agility as impacted by the info-techno-socio and emerging socio-info-techno systems. Design/methodology/approach: From collaborative doctoral level research and an extensive literature review--integrating the three cultures (the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities)--macro/global and local/micro cross level thematic complex systems models were identified and modelled across their connecting political, security and economic ecologies. Connecting models were designed considering "trust" and "risk" as applied to socio, techno and info-techno systems. These systems were then considered in terms of lean and agility and their impact "in the extreme" and "over time" on complex political, security economic models. Findings: Lean in the extreme can lead to vertical polarisation; causing conditions for competition leading to hyper-competition. Originality/value: Complex models are considered and explained by historical reference and story-telling so as to enable access across different disciplines and to explain and potentially inspire researchers, managers, consultants and workers to consider alternative less competitive and more agile, collaborative and adaptive futures. (Contains 30 notes and 2 figures.)


Atkinson, S.R., Goodger, A., Caldwell, N. & Hossain, L. (2012). How Lean the Machine: How Agile the Mind?. Learning Organization, 19(3), 183-206. Retrieved October 1, 2023 from .

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