Our case study at Cochlear, a medical device manufacturer, highlights how devolving HR to the line can facilitate organisational change to lean manufacturing. Drawing on interviews and focus groups conducted with management and employees, it sheds light into the HR practices in one of the very few Australian manufacturers that are successful on an international scale. This study contributes to the debate on strategic human resource management and in particular on the role of line managers and the process and outcomes of devolving HR responsibilities to the line during an organisational-wide transformation to lean management (a form of high-performance work systems). Furthermore, we add to the increasing and significant research stream which argues that HR affects organisational performance indirectly rather than directly; hence, the focus of HR professionals should be on developing systems of support for line managers so as to ensure the consistent and equitable enactment of intended HRM practices. Key points: This exemplary case of Cochlear contributes to the debate on SHRM and the role of line managers in implementing organisational change. This qualitative case study illustrates transitioning to lean manufacturing practices is effectively facilitated when SHRM principles are adopted, including the devolution of HR responsibilities to the line. This study demonstrates that the focus of HR professionals should be on developing systems of support for line managers to ensure the consistent and equitable enactment of intended HRM practices.