AAU logo

PhD defense by Mohammad Abdul Latif

Employee voice and Lean manufacturing: Identify the influence of implicit voice theories


18.02.2020 kl. 13.00 - 16.00



The philosophy of continuous improvement in Lean production system requires employees’ voices in the form of ideas and suggestions in problem-solving activities. Unfortunately, this area has received less focus in Lean research. Therefore, the aim of this research is to address this gap by exploring the nature of employee voices and psychosocial barriers to mobilize employee voices in Lean production system.


Though Lean frequently uses the terms employee participation and employee involvement, yet it rarely used the term voice. Employee voice in Lean refers to direct employee participation in problem solving. Extensive research on employee voice has been carried out by the scholars of different fields, specially, by the scholars in Industrial Relations and Organizational Behavior fields and have identified the benefits to mobilize employee voice both at the organization and the employee level (Morrison, 2014). Lean scholars locate the importance of employee participation (voice) in problem solving at the very heart of the Lean concept (e.g., MacDuffie, 1995; Shah and Ward, 2007; Womack et al., 1990). Despite its importance, employee voice is not given due attention in operation management. Lean practitioners focus on tool-based solutions, ignoring human dynamics which leads to the suboptimal performance or some cases failure of a Lean initiative. Scholars in operation management, specially, in Lean production recently recommended to focus on employee participation and employee voice.

The voice scholars have identified that voice is restricted by the barriers both at the organization level as well as the individual level. Organizational behavior scholars have also identified that voice is restricted by the individually held implicit beliefs that speaking up is harmful to the organizational hierarchies. Detert and Edmondson (2011) termed these beliefs as implicit voice theories (IVTs). Therefore, this research aims to study employee voice behavior and its psychosocial barriers, represented by IVTs, in an operational management perspective during the implementation of Lean in the Readymade Garment (RMG) industry in Bangladesh. Following an intervention based action research integrated with case study research strategy, this research used a mixed-methods data collection approach dominated by a qualitative research methodology. The research focused on individual-level, team-level, and management-level perspectives of employee voice behavior and the dissertation was comprised of three separate studies based on the above mentioned three research areas.


The overall findings of this research revealed that the individual workers at floor level generally raise a production-related problem-focused voice to their supervisors and rarely raised health related issues if they did not create any problem to the production. Findings suggest that employees’ role perception influences their voice behavior at workplace. Those with in-role role perception raise more voice than those who consider it as extra-role.  Contrasting to the findings of Detert and Edmondson (2011) on IVTs, this research found that the influence of implicit voice beliefs on employee voice behavior vary significantly with different contextual and situational practices. The findings also identified that irrespective of the influence of IVTs and role perception, different dimensions of top management commitment positively impacts prosocial voice behavior in Lean teams, which in turn contributes to improving productivity and OHS performance at the workplace.

Taken together, the findings of this research contributed to the voice literature in operation management, particularly in Lean manufacturing. The findings contributed to the knowledge on the role of employee voice in Lean manufacturing by identifying the nature of the voice of RMG employees and the influence of psychosocial barriers represented by IVTs to the expression of employee voice. Identifying the influence of role definition and IVTs, and the top management role in mobilizing employee voice, this research opens new avenues of research and introduces new perspectives on employee voice in operation management.




Department of Materials and Production


A.C. Meyers Vænge 15, Copenhagen, room 2.1.042, Building A

Gå til arrangementslisten


Se listen