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eYim, WC 2015, 'The effect of leader-member exchange (LMX) on relationships between line managers’ strategic commitment and fostering a lean culture in garment factories in China', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright WC Yim 2015


The rapid economic development of China has created inflation, increased the costs of labour, raw materials, and other manufacturing inputs, thus impairing the profits from manufacturing and inducing a survival crisis for some manufacturers. As a result, lean manufacturing is being widely adopted by many factories in China as an operational strategy. However, according to many researchers, less than 10% of lean implementations have been successful because of an inability to foster the lean culture required to sustain lean implementation.

This study argues that the strategic commitment of line managers to lean manufacturing nourishes lean culture. Line managers are the immediate leaders of the rank-and-file workers, with their leadership styles and leader-member exchanges (LMX) being important influences that nurture a lean culture among their fellow workers.

By using a sample of 314 line managers of garment factories in China and using structural equational modelling (SEM) data analysis, it is found that strategic commitment positively influences lean culture and the affect, loyalty, contribution and professional respect dimensions of LMX. But only the affect dimension positively influences lean culture. Therefore, LMX-affect is one of the most important LMX dimensions mediating between line managers’ strategic commitment and lean culture.

This research has the implication that management should first obtain managers’ strategic commitment and create an environment to foster LMX between their frontend managers and their fellow workers so that a lean culture can be anchored firmly. This study has added to the literature on front-end managers, who interact with the rank-and-file workers daily, and are therefore important in implementing lean manufacturing.

In addition, their LMX affect is a vital factor in lean culture.