Operational Excellence in the Netherlands: past developments, emergent topics and future research directions

Call for papers for: International Journal of Lean Six Sigma

This special issue will open for submissions: 17th December 2020.

The deadline for submissions is: 31st March 2021.

Guest editors

-Professor Ronald Does, University of Amsterdam Business School, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

-Dr Bart Lameijer, University of Amsterdam Business School, Amsterdam, The Netherlands



Lean Six Sigma (LSS) has been a common methodology for operational excellence in Dutch organizations for several decades. Academic interest on the topic emerged relatively early, and a wide variety of research has appeared from the Netherlands over the past three decades.

The first accounts of research on LSS implementation from the Netherlands appeared in the midst of the 1990’s, focusing especially on the impact of Lean production on the organization of work (Niepce and Molleman, 1996; Schuring, 1996), the implementation of Statistical Process Control (Does and Roes, 1996), and the application of Six Sigma in Dutch subsidiaries of US multinationals (Van den Heuvel et al., 1997). In these early years research predominantly focused on the manufacturing industry, and a widespread interest in LSS implementation for continuous improvement in the Netherlands was reported (Gieskes et al., 1997; Does et al., 2000). In 1998 the first research on LSS for sustainable production appeared (De Ron, 1998) and from 2004 onwards several reports on LSS applied in healthcare settings were published (Van Den Heuvel et al., 2004; Joosten et al., 2009; Van Vliet et al., 2010; Niemeijer et al., 2011 and 2012; Gemmel et al., 2019). Contributions to understanding the value of LSS from a strategic perspective followed (De Mast, 2006). Following earlier work by Gieskes et al. (1997), research by Middel et al. (2007) reported that between 1997-2007 the initial interest in LSS had resulted in a widespread implementation of LSS in Dutch organizations. Middel et al. (2007) also showed that more mature LSS implementation problems emerged in need of scholarly attention. Contributions to properly define LSS as an improvement methodology appeared (Van Iwaarden et al., 2008) and research on the implementation of LSS in environments not characterized by high volumes and low variety was performed (Slomp et al., 2009).

From 2011 onwards the research on LSS implementation from the Netherlands started to increase. Several universities took a leading role, such as the University of Amsterdam , the University of Groningen, the University of Tilburg and the University of Twente. The research output per researcher differed per university and especially the University of Amsterdam showed a high per researcher density of LSS research output. Topics that were studied comprised contributions to the development of the methodology (Does et al., 2002; De Mast, 2006, De Mast and Lokkerbol, 2012; Lameijer et al., 2016; Zwetsloot et al., 2018), applications in small and medium sized enterprises- (Timans et al., 2012 and 2016; Powell et al., 2013; Knol et al., 2018) and the relation of LSS with other business management focal points such as human resource management (De Koeijer et al., 2014), management control (Tillema and Van der Steen, 2015), leadership (Van Dun et al., 2016 and 2017; Van Assen, 2018a and 2018b), innovation management (Solaimani et al., 2019) and industry 4.0 (Tortorella et al., 2019). Important emphases for LSS implementation success were reported (Knol et al., 2019; Van Assen, 2019 and 2020) and finally several reports on research in other than the manufacturing and healthcare industries appeared from the Netherlands (De Mast et al., 2013; De Jong and Van Blokland, 2016; Gutierrez-Gutierrez, 2016).

Hence there has been, and is, a wide academic interest for topics related to LSS implementation with 8 out of 14 Dutch public universities that (have) actively published on the topic (Web of Science, 2020; VSNU, 2020). With 17.5 million people and an annual economic output (GDP) of 913.6 billion USD (World Bank, 2018) the Netherlands is ranked the 17th economy in the world. The economic output of the Netherlands is comparatively high and economic activity is concentrated in professional services (e.g. financial services) (23%), healthcare (15%), trade (15%), manufacturing (8%) and educational services (6%) (CBS, 2018). The adoption of LSS methodology in Dutch organizations is, although varying per service industry, relatively mature. Moreover, the Netherlands accommodates many highly innovative service-based companies. Therefore, this special issue on operational excellence in the Netherlands aims for a better understanding of LSS implementation in service-based organizations.


Potential research topics

The aims for this issue are to provide new insights and a better understanding of the conditions that affect if and how LSS affects organizational performance. This entails among others a better understanding of the factors that enable vs. the factors that inhibit long term success of LSS implementations. Given the research developments on the topic in the Netherlands new frontiers on LSS implementation research are anticipated. In addition we aim to capture how adjacent developments in the area of process improvement influences LSS implementations in organizations, such as (process) automation and iterative ways of working. The submitted papers must clarify the relevance of the LSS research perspective to operational excellence. The potential research topics on operational excellence in the Netherlands include, but are not limited to:

  • The effect of Lean and Six Sigma tools on LSS implementation success in service industries
  • LSS implementation in Healthcare
  • Leadership in LSS implementations
  • LSS implementation in the public sector
  • The effects of LSS implementation on IT performance
  • LSS implementation and the role of human resources
  • The effect of data science developments on the LSS problem solving approach
  • The effect of LSS implementation on organizational environmental sustainability


Types of papers to be published

For this Special Issue of the International Journal of Lean Six Sigma, we expect papers with both a theoretical basis and robust empirical evidence, that make contributions to either operational excellence theory development or LSS implementation understanding. We particularly welcome papers that aim to provide innovative perspectives and a broad view of LSS and its relationships with other business management areas. Cross-disciplinary papers are also expected, but the contribution to the field of operational excellence must be clarified.

The full range of empirically based research methodologies in the operations management context—including (but not limited to) surveys, case studies, action research and secondary data analysis (e.g. event study and panel data analysis)—are welcome. Papers adopting mixed methodology are also welcome. However, pure modelling and simulation papers or literature reviews are beyond our consideration.


Submission and review process

Submissions are based on invitation by the guest editors. The following deadlines apply to this Special Issue:

  • Open for Submission: 17/12/2020
  • Closing Date: 11/03/2021
  • Date of Final Acceptance: 06/09/2021

Submissions are to be made through the IJLSS ScholarOne manuscript submission portal  https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ijlss and please consult the author guidelines prior to submission, that are found here


Special issue editorial team

Professor Ronald J.M.M. Does: Ronald Does has been professor at the University of Amsterdam since 1991. From the early eighties Ronald Does has been publishing research in the fields of mathematical, medical and industrial statistics, psychometrics and operations management. In addition, he is the co-author of eleven books in the field of industrial statistics.

In 2008 he received the William G. Hunter Award from the Statistics Division of ASQ and in 2019 the Shewhart Medal from ASQ and the Box Medal from ENBIS. Internationally, he is active in ASA (fellow), ASQ (fellow), ENBIS (founding director), ISEA (board member) and ISBIS. In addition, he is an Academician of the International Academy for Quality, elected member of the International Statistical Institute, and a member of the editorial boards of Quality Engineering, Journal of Quality Technology and Quality Technology & Quantitative Management.

On May 1, 1994 he founded the Institute for Business and Industrial Statistics (IBIS UvA). As director of IBIS UvA he was / is consulting a large number of companies on LSS related topics, such as Achmea, ASM Lithography, Canisius Wilhelmina Hospital, DAF Trucks, Douwe Egberts, Fokker Aerostructures, Philips, Red Cross Hospital, Reinier de Graaf Group, Stork, Thales, University Medical Center Groningen and ZwitserLeven.


Dr Bart A. Lameijer: Bart Lameijer is Assistant Professor at the Operations Management Section of the University of Amsterdam Business School. His research focusses on the implementation of continuous improvement methods such as Lean and Six Sigma and he teaches Operational Excellence and Operations Management courses. The results of his research have been published in various international journals.

Before becoming an Assistant Professor he fulfilled several Lean, Six Sigma and Data Analytics roles at Deloitte Consulting and ABN-AMRO bank in the Netherlands, Germany and Asia in operations, IT and commercial business environments. His experience with the application of Lean and Six Sigma motivated him to commence his research on the implementation of Lean Six Sigma (LSS).



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