Uncomfortable truths - teamworking under lean in the UK

Carter, Bob and Danford, Andrew and Howcroft, Debra and Richardson, Helen and Smith, Andrew and Taylor, Phil (2017) Uncomfortable truths - teamworking under lean in the UK. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 28 (3). pp. 449-467. ISSN 0958-5192 (https://doi.org/10.1080/09585192.2015.1111251)

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This article responds to a recent contribution to this journal. Procter and Radnor (2014) provide an account of teamworking in the UK Civil Service, specifically Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which focuses on the relationship between recently implemented lean work organisation and teams and teamworking. This intervention is prompted by criticism of the present authors’ published research into lean in the same locus (e.g. Carter et al, 2011a;b; 2013 a;b). Procter and Radnor claim, without foundation we argue, that our work is ‘one-sided’ and that theirs delivers a ‘more nuanced’ analysis of lean in this government department and, it follows, of the lean phenomenon more generally. Our riposte critiques their article on several grounds. Firstly, it suffers from problems of logic and construction, conceptual confusion and definitional imprecision. Methodological difficulties and inconsistent evidence contribute additionally to analytical weakness. Included in our response are empirical findings on teamworking at HMRC, which challenge Proctor and Radnor’s evidential basis and further reveal the shortcomings of their interpretation.