Date of Completion


Embargo Period



adult learning, lean manufacturing, mental model, concept mapping, supervisor, leadership, experiential learning

Major Advisor

Dr. Barry G. Sheckley

Associate Advisor

Dr. Alexandra A. Bell

Associate Advisor

Dr. Marijke T. Kehrhahn

Field of Study

Adult Learning


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Global competition and a down-sized labor force require manufacturers to use lean manufacturing practices. Current professional development models, however, are suboptimal in guiding efforts of first line supervisors to help workers improve their skills in solving manufacturing problems. This study employed an interpretive qualitative research methodology to explore what supervisors and workers experienced as the key factors that helped workers learn how to use lean manufacturing practices. Eight individuals who worked in an aerospace manufacturing plant located in the northeast United States participated in the study. Six of the participants were first line supervisors and two were first-line workers. Data collection methods included a demographic questionnaire and a semi-structured audiotaped interview. Data were analyzed using open coding and constant comparative methods. The researcher found that, in this plant setting, the key factors that influenced how workers learned lean manufacturing practices were: (a) sharing perspectives, (b) engaging in rich learning experiences, (c) ongoing support for learning, and (d) engaging in team-based learning. The results of this study may provide useful guidance to first line supervisors as they design a program that helps workers develop lean manufacturing skills. Ultimately this program could assist first line supervisors in their efforts to guide workers as they solve new manufacturing problems within the constraints of a downsized economy and a globally competitive industry.