Author ORCID Identifier

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)



First Advisor

Dr. Lars Mathiassen

Second Advisor

Dr. Satish V. Nargundkar

Third Advisor

Dr. Kris Byron


Lean Six Sigma has been adopted by tens of thousands of organizations as a process improvement methodology to cut costs, increase efficiencies, and drive shareholder value. However, the majority of organizations fail to reap the benefits intended by the methodology and experience challenges in sustaining the Lean Six Sigma program long-term. Although guidance exists for organizations to successfully implement Lean Six Sigma, there is a dearth of literature on the inner workings of large-scale organizations as they maintain and sustain long-term Lean Six Sigma programs. To address this gap, we provide a retrospective in-depth case study of a Fortune 500 organization, Johnson & Johnson Inc., which has been successful in both implementing and sustaining Lean Six Sigma for 13 years (from 2002 to 2015). We draw on the Competing Values Framework developed by Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1981) to analyze Johnson & Johnson’s sustainment of its Lean Six Sigma program, referred to internally as the “Process Excellence” program. A balanced set of competing values signifies organizational effectiveness – and our findings provide a detailed account of how Johnson & Johnson managed the competing values of people versus organization, flexibility versus control, and means versus ends throughout each period of its Lean Six Sigma program lifecycle. We provide examples where the organization focused on particular competing values in alignment with general guiding principles for Lean Six Sigma sustainment, in addition to examples focusing on particular competing values to address potential root causes of Lean Six Sigma failure. Opportunities for Johnson & Johnson to better balance each set of competing values are provided as recommendations for potential future revival of its Process Excellence program – in addition to guidance for leadership team members, practitioners, and stakeholders in Lean Six Sigma organizations outside of Johnson & Johnson. As a result, we offer a detailed empirical account of how an enterprise organized, managed, and sustained its Lean Six Sigma program over a significant period of time; we demonstrate the application of the Competing Values Framework in the study of a large-scale Lean Six Sigma organization; and we provide exemplary lessons for leaders and practitioners implementing and managing process improvement programs within their own organizations.


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