Using Lean and Voice of Customers to Fulfil Needs in the Charity Sector – A Reflective Case Study


  • Huay Ling Tay1 (Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore)
  • Julian See1 (Singapore University of Social Sciences, Singapore)

Lean principles are widely adopted in the manufacturing and services industries. However, few organisations consider Lean in the operations nor implement Lean initiatives in the charity sector. This paper is a narrative reflection of an action case research study conducted in a charity organisation in Singapore - the Food Bank Singapore (FBS), where Lean principles were adapted to optimise available resources to meet the needs of beneficiaries and donors. We found three key priorities that must be established by gathering and listening to the voice of customers (VOC), including the beneficiaries and donors in the charity context. The three priorities relate to the roles of the key stakeholders that support FBS’s mission of eradicating hunger and all forms of food insecurity in Singapore. The first priority is enabling donors to donate right to meet beneficiaries’ needs. The second priority is enabling FBS operations to serve the diverse beneficiaries’ needs better. The last priority is offering beneficiaries the “Dignity of Choice” of foods. This paper underlines the critical success factors for adopting Lean: - appropriate leadership, staff engagement, and stakeholder management. The reflective findings from this article will enable non-profit and charity professionals to better understand the application of Lean principles.

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