In an effort to highlight the importance of Lean principles in the workplace, we’ve elected to share selected writings from our friend Bill Greider of P4 Executive Lean Strategy Consulting.
Anyone that has an interest in The Toyota Production System knows that one of the basic fundamental philosophies is “respect for people.” I truly believe that you can NEVER “do lean” very well until you get your mind around what this is. First and foremost, respect for people is a philosophy that is demonstrated by your actions and how you do business, not something you merely believe or state in your mission statement. Here are 6 ways (off the top of my head) to demonstrate RESPECT.
1) Go to “GEMBA”-having worked on over a thousand A3s, I can share first hand how much showing up where the work is impacts people. In my role, the first thing I do as outside help when I show up is go to the A3 board and make a list of who I think I should help that day, based on the status of the projects. Then, I go find those A3 leaders, and ask them if they would show me what they are doing. Typically, they will pull out the form and gladly take me through what the problem is, explain who is on their team, why it is important etc. never do they tell me they don’t have time,. They are proud of what they’re doing and realize how important it is. The role of leadership in the process of A3 is to re-enforce to these people just how important it is by “going to see” and ask questions. I coach leaders to make go-and-see part of their daily standardized work. Just go see 2 A3 leaders every day-at the end of the year, you will have seen almost 500 leaders. It takes 10-15 minutes to do it, and the IMPACT will stun you. People want to be caught doing what they think you think is important. Showing up and asking questions (not giving answers) is the primary way to show respect.
2) Take responsibility-it is so respectful to assume two things about the people you have recruited, hired and invested in-assume they are smart and that they care. Until you do this, people will be thought of as scapegoats for faulty processes. When someone makes an error, ASSUME that YOU didn’t train them well enough, or YOU didn’t communicate how important a step is. Assume that people show up each day with the intention of being great, not that they don’t care. The 3rd “P” is “the right process will produce the right result”. If you don’t like the result, fix the process.
3) If a process change impacts other people’s jobs, make sure they are part of the improvement. An A3 team is almost always 3-5 people, so not everyone who is affected can be on the team. But, if you are one of the 3-5 people, it is important that you communicate the progress of the improvement activity to your peers (the other people who do the job), and communicate back to the A3 team their questions and concerns. When the change is made, make sure NOBODY is blindsided!
4) Understand YOUR role-let me ask you this: in your business, whose job is any more important than anyone else’s? Is the Vice President of Operations any more important than the shipper’s helper who helps to make sure everything gets out the door in time to your customers? Or the custodial staff who serves to make the environment pleasurable? Unfortunately, some managers seem to think that because they work in the air conditioning or dress up for work that their job is more important. The truth is, great leaders understand that they don’t do “value added” work, and their role is to develop people and build leaders.
5). Challenge people-let me give you an example. One of the scariest things (after death, spiders and clowns) is public speaking. Unfortunately, one of the steps in A3 is the sharing of learnings (Yokoten). In some companies, this means speaking in front of 40-60 people, teaching them what you and your team did. Sometimes, when I ask someone to lead a project, they ask me if they will have to talk. I always tell them yes, but I will help them. For their first A3 closing, I might stand with them and support them. I’ll definitely help them rehearse what they want to say. Once they’ve done it once or twice, they have the confidence to go it alone. People who work on the plant floor may feel apprehensive at first about leading a team that may include engineers, accountants or IT people. See them through it! Don’t let them off the hook! Challenging people demonstrates that you have faith and believe in them. People that do a great job leading an A3 should be asked to help first-time A3 leaders get through it. Continuously challenging demonstrates respect.
6) It is disrespectful for ME to fix YOUR job. The people who do the work every day (sometimes for years or decades) are experts at what they do. The least we can do is give them first crack at improving it. The ideal balance for A3 projects is 50% employee suggestions, and 50% “assigned”. Remember that Toyota uses the number of employee suggestions as a measure of morale. It is a measure of people’s sense of ownership. Demonstrate respect by using A3 as a way for people to implement their own suggestions!
So, there you have it. A starter set of ways to demonstrate respect for people. In a future post, I an anxious to share with you some real-life examples of how I’ve seen great leaders demonstrate respect. Stay tuned!
To learn more about Bill Greider and P4 Executive Lean Strategy Consulting click here to visit his website