Uncomfortable truths - teamworking under lean in the UK

Bob Carter, Andrew Danford, Debra Howcroft, Helen Richardson, Andrew Smith, Phil Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-467
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number3
Early online date29 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • lean
  • lean working
  • teams
  • teamworking
  • HRM
  • targets
  • new public management
  • HMRC


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