Friday, October 4, 2013

Lean Quote: Eiji Toyoda's 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.

"…employees are offering a very important part of their life to us. If we don’t use their time effectively, we are wasting their lives.— Eiji Toyoda, former President and Chairman of Toyota Motor Corporation and cousin of the company’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda

In remembrance of Eiji Toyoda, a key figure in the development of the Toyota Production System, who recently died at age 100 I chose the quote above because it forms the foundation of  “Respect for People.” Like Eiji I believe people are the most important asset in any company but sadly this is not a management philosophy shared by all.

A survey of over 100,000 people in more than 2,000 companies highlighted that managers are wasting their employee’s time.

Among the surprising facts: Over the years this index has been compiled, only 12% of people responded positively to the following statement: “My company is respectful of my time and attention, and is focused on using it wisely and effectively.”

The survey also indicates that, among other findings, for every 100 employees:

51 must go back to their manager frequently to determine what they’re supposed to do.
71 can’t find what they need to do their best.
81 think an Xbox works better than the tools their company supplies.

Lacking clear direction, tools, and systems at work can cost time or even worst cost talent. In fact, the design of workflow and workload are matters of respect. The time, attention, ideas, knowledge, and energy you ask your employees to invest in their job day in and day out is certainly worthy of respecting.


Respect for people means developing their latent skills in both on the job and off the job training. It is easy to invest money in new technology, software, or equipment. It takes time, effort, and planning to invest in employee skills development. Wasting employee time implies a lack of respect and poor planning by all involved.

See Mark Graban’s post: Eiji Toyoda, Credited with Developing TPS and Expanding Toyota into North America, Passes Away at 100 , Bill Waddell’s post: Eiji Toyoda – the Master Innovator , Jon Miller’s post: The Man Who Saved Kaizen, and Karen Martin’s post: Eiji Toyoda: A Consummate Leader (1913-2013) for more great tributes to Eiji Toyoda.


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