Friday, January 21, 2011

Lean Quote - Respect for People

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.

"It is disrecpectful to not allow people the opportunity to solve their own problems or use their own thinking.." — David Meier, at Northeast Shingo Prize Conference, 2010

Leaders facilitate the solution of problems by pinpointing responsibility and developing employees. Leaders do not solve other people’s problems. Although sometimes it seems easier to solve the problem yourself, that easy road out often has you encounter the same problem again.

It is not the job of the leader to solve all the problems. The leader’s job is to clarify and help define the problem, find the problem owner and see that the owner takes responsibility for its solution. Similar to the fishing adage, which says don’t feed a person a fish; teach them how to fish, don’t solve the problem, teach them how to solve their own problems.

Give a Man a Fish, Feed Him For a Day. Teach a Man to Fish, Feed Him For a Lifetime.

Your role as a leader is to develop talent to the highest levels of independent and autonomous thinking and execution. Great leaders don’t subscribe to a “Do-It-For-You” methodology of talent management, rather they lead, mentor, coach and develop team members by getting them to buy-into a “Do-It-Yourself” work ethic. Great leaders view each interaction, question or even conflict as a coaching opportunity. Don’t answer questions or solve problems just because you can, rather teach your employees how to do it for themselves. If you make it a habit of solving problems for people, you simply teach them to come to you for solutions at the first sign of a challenge.

Lean thinkers at Toyota believe that showing respect for people means you allow them to think for themselves and solve their own problem.  It is often said that the mission of Toyota is about developing exceptional people who happen to make great cars.  The point is that it is more about people and less about the problem.  The problem is another opportunity to teach them a skill for lifetime.

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1 comment:

  1. Tim, I can certainly appreciate the lesson here and echo your thought process. Coaches know how to play the game, yet they remain on the sidelines or stand on the bench while the team applies their collective skills to play the game.

    While I understand the "fish" analogy, I think we really need to appreciate what it means to teach someone to fish. Do we present them with known fishing solutions (spear, net, fishing rod, bare hands) or do we actually facilitate a process where the person develops their own solution to catch fish? I suggest that Toyota would go so far as to use the latter option.

    I recommend reading "Toyota Kata" by Mike Rother. This book provides excellent insight into Toyota's problem solving and coaching methods. You won't be disappointed and I wouldn't be surprised if you already have a copy.

    Great Blog, Thanks for Sharing.