Association for the Anthropology of Policy
Oral Presentation Session
In the organization, the modern, utopian project of development and improvement into perfection is in good shape, not least as demonstrated by the success of management models. Management models are visionary. They are about the future creating hope for a better, more efficient workplace and better functioning work processes. One such model is the Lean management model with its focus on efficiency and waste elimination. The model, originally from the automotive industry, has moved into all sorts of organizations including, as discussed in this paper, public preschools. The model’s power of fast, immutable mobility aligned with the perceived utopian ideal of efficiency and modernity rushed the Lean management model into preschools as a force promising solutions to perceived policy problems. In this way, Lean was initiated in order to create a future – to create an imagined future of a Lean, perfectly ordered organization, working efficiently without waste. Even though the Lean model luckily failed to turn preschools into the well-oiled Lean machines, it did manage to create new environments of power and new patterns of governance in preschools. Management models are promoted as models for all organizations, but Lean’s dispositional difference from the policy words and tools that govern preschools and the lack of similarity between the preschool context and the context of the automobile factory rendered the model inept for preschools. Still, the model made itself felt in the preschools by turning resources and focus from pedagogy and care towards efficiency and waste elimination to save time.