Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD, Chair Marcus Lam, PhD, Member Sheridan L. Barker, EdD, Member Leonard Perry, PhD, Member


: Nonprofit, Leader, Leadership, Lean, Six Sigma, Sector-bending, Sector Blurring, Businesslike


Government, business, and nonprofit represent three distinct types of organizations governed by different legal frameworks designed to facilitate collective action (DiMaggio & Anheier, 1990). The emergence of hybrid forms and increasing isomorphic pressures in the nonprofit sector (Bromley & Meyer, 2017; McCambridge, 2014) have challenged the traditional separation of organizational forms. This study explored the phenomenon popularized as sector-bending, “a wide variety of approaches, activities, and relationships that are blurring the distinctions between nonprofit and for-profit organizations, either because they are behaving more similarly, operating in the same realms, or both” (Dees & Anderson, 2003, pg. 16). This qualitative study examined the firsthand experiences of nonprofit leaders as they engaged in sector-bending by receiving training and certification in Lean Six Sigma (LSS) - a businesslike methodology traditionally deployed in manufacturing/for-profit corporations. By allowing nonprofit leaders to engage in a more reflective way, we better understand what is really happening on the front lines.

Findings indicated that some nonprofit leaders experienced tension over being driven by mission versus data which provoked personal growth and improved leadership skills. Adoption of LSS foundational principles and concepts (e.g. collect data before rushing to solutions) were found to have a longer-term utilization than the tactical LSS tools. Although the nonprofit leaders have yet to implement a thriving LSS culture in their organizations, they believe that LSS can be a source of financial stability. LSS was a positive experience and nonprofit leaders stay committed to the practice and training.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies