Purpose – Recently, the operations management academic literature has seen articles focusing on the transfer of “lean” thinking or kaizen concept from the private to the public sector. In Spain, during the last 15 years, some local councils have also followed similar improvement initiatives sometimes under the umbrella of “global quality programmes” trying to support continuous process and service improvement. The research question for this article is: How is lean-kaizen applied in local councils in Spain? The aim is to shed light on how lean thinking is applied in order to improve those services provided to the public by local councils by describing empirical studies in specific Spanish contexts. Design/methodology/approach – The case study approach was adopted in this research. The research design conducted was of the longitudinal and retrospective type. Findings – The results of the empirical evidence show that three techniques related to lean-kaizen have a direct effect on the processes and management systems in local councils. The three techniques are: 5S, gemba kaizen workshops and process mapping. These techniques improved the processes and quality of public services provided by the councils. These results suggest the first indications of documented lean-kaizen public service. Originality/value – A review of the academic literature of lean thinking and kaizen concept indicates that the managerial application of the techniques in the public sector are few and far between and have been barely explored at the empirical level. The paper makes a contribution to the deeper understanding of the usefulness of applying lean-kaizen in local government in order to improve the processes and services provided to the public – the emergence of lean-kaizen public service.
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