A mixed-methods investigation of evidence-based Lean Thinking practice to Kaizen academic processes for Private Higher Education Institutes in Singapore

  • - Lim Chin Guan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study aims to bridge the gap by investigating, exploring, and proposing evidence-based Lean Thinking practice in the Course Planning and Delivery Process (CP&DP) in Singapore Private Higher Educations Institutes (SPHEIs). There is no such evidence about the current level of Lean Thinking practice in SPHEIs. Starting from the gap that the bibliometric analysis and literature review highlights, the research study focuses on (a) the current level of Lean Thinking evidence practice in SPHEIs for CP&DP; (b) the relationship between Lean Thinking versus CP&DP; (c) the current Lean Thinking practice that influences Key Performance Indicators (KPI) in SPHEIs; (d) how SPHEIs deploy Lean Thinking practice to improve academic processes.

The goal of bibliometric techniques is to assist the public and private Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) understand the importance of Lean Thinking in adding value to customers (“students”) while reducing waste in administrative and academic processes. A total of a hundred and thirty-three papers found in the Scopus database published between 2003 to 2020 were identified through bibliometric analysis. The survey identified a hundred and sixty authors from forty-one countries in a hundred and thirty-three papers. However, only two articles on Six Sigma and Lean management connect to Singapore. Thus, there appears to be a gap in the recent literature concerning Lean Thinking practice in SPHEIs.

The literature review revealed the critical Lean Thinking in Higher Education themes: administration and operation process; curriculum design and delivery process; teaching and learning process; leadership and sustainability; quality and performance. The study also looked at evidence-based practice in Higher Education, such as the source of evidence and common misconceptions, before moving on to evidence-based Lean Thinking practice. However, there has been insignificant literature about the use of Lean Thinking in Higher Education. Hence, the theoretical framework of the literature review, knowledge gap analysis, and conceptual framework of the research study has been developed and discussed.

The research philosophy of this study was epistemology pragmatism. A cross-sectional survey collected more facts about the context of the Lean Thinking practice in the SPHEIs. An empirical study was conducted, using triangulation embedded mixed-method, which combined quantitative and qualitative data, to address the research gap. The study is limited to two SPHEIs from the twenty-seven target institutions during the COVID-19 lockdown in Singapore since April 2020.

Using five Lean Principles, four Lean Wastes, and eight Lean Tools, the questionnaire survey presented and investigated: the level of Lean Thinking evidence practice, level of Lean Tools competency, level of Lean Thinking relationship, and level of KPI. The first null hypothesis sought to learn the current level of evidence for Lean Thinking practice in SPHEIs. It indicated positive acceptance among the respondents as to the evidence-based practices of the various attribute, a highly positive significance test results. The second null hypothesis investigated the relationship between dependent and independent variables, and it demonstrated that Lean Thinking has correlated to CP&DP. The third null hypothesis was to understand the current Lean Thinking practice level in SPHEIs that could significantly influence KPI. The results of the inter-relationship between Lean Thinking practice in CP&DP versus KPI, Lean Tools competency versus KPI and Lean Thinking relationship versus KPI demonstrated a highly significant influence on one another. Thus, these three null hypotheses were rejected. Finally, qualitative data on how SPHEIs used the Lean Thinking practice in the CP&DP were analysed and addressed to understand the quantitative findings better as evidence-based strategies. This research does have limitations, and this has not impacted the study. Moreover, similar future research can be carried out in private Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) or public universities in other countries by extending more variables in the CP&DP.

Finally, the researcher discussed the realisation of research aim and objectives, quality of research, the contribution to theory, knowledge, and professional practice. Theoretical implications impact the researcher’s value in the study, and it could come from the additional variables the researcher added to the original view. Next, the contribution to the knowledge that 33% (1 out of 3) of internal wastage comes from three activities or processes: (a) Do the right things wrong; (b) Do the wrong things; (c) Do the wrong things wrong. However, if the activities are doing the right things the first time and all the time, it contributes or adds a 67% value (100% - 33%) to increase the revenue stream. The professional practice has twelve steps with fifteen components of Lean Thinking Kaizen Academic Process Canvas form a complete “big picture” of “T” shape or foundation and “U” shape or methodology components from problem to solution. The self-explanation canvas helps SPHEIs restructure, adopts highly effective strategic planning, gives high value-added through innovation, and stays competitive by improving educational processes.
Date of AwardJul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorDilshad Sarwar (Supervisor), Amin Hosseinian Far (Supervisor) & Easwaramoorthy Rangaswamy (Supervisor)


  • Six Sigma
  • Lean Six Sigma
  • Lean/Lean Thinking
  • Higher Education
  • Evidence-based
  • Kaizen Academic Processes

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