What's in a Name? Linguistic Labels in the Adoption of a Lean Production System in a Russian Bank
31 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2015
Date Written: May 14, 2015
In this study we ask whether the vocabulary of Toyota’s lean production system (“LPS”) affects its adoption in a non-Japanese context. New institutionalism argues that a management system is easier to transfer when it is theorized into an abstract model of cause-effect relationships among its components. Yet, abstract categories of management are expressed using a natural language that has its own everyday meanings and connotations. To explore what happens when a large Russian retail bank introduces LPS using the original Japanese labels versus Russian ones, we developed an abstract model of LPS as a cause-effect relationship between problems and solutions, and designed a survey questionnaire to assess the acceptance of this model by the bank’s employees. Samples of the employees at two of the bank’s branches were randomly assigned to one of two versions of the questionnaire: one using the original Japanese labels transliterated with the Cyrillic alphabet or one that had all the original Japanese labels translated into the Russian language. Our analysis showed that the bank’s employees were more likely to assess the relevance of LPS consistently with our abstract model when the system’s components were labeled in Russian rather than transliterated Japanese. The Russian labels made visible the causal link from problems to solutions and reduced the resistance to accepting lean production’s problems as relevant. Indeed, the labeling language appears to affect the transferability of a management system in general, and the acceptance of the problems that the system is supposed to address in particular.
Keywords: lean production, language, experiment, Russia, Belarus
JEL Classification: A14, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation