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Monday, March 25, 2024

Respect for People – Not an Optional Principle for Successful Lean Companies

Respect for People is one of the most overlooked principles of Lean.  Respect for people means developing employees’ 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.

Without respecting, involving, and drawing upon the expertise of employees who perform the work every day, you overlook the most fertile source of practical and ready-to-implement suggestions for improvement.

By engaging people in the process of problem solving, it reduces resistance to the recommended solutions. Rather, participants want to see their ideas implemented and be successful because they are their ideas. Lean is inclusive; it is not done to people; it is done by people who feel empowered to create value.

If you really want to empower employees, you'll need to create a company culture that encourages and rewards innovation. You may start by asking individuals to look for ways to improve efficiency, output, safety, etc. in the tasks they perform every day.

Allow them to make mistakes as a form of learning. Show that it is really OK to make mistakes. Trust that people have the right intentions and will make the right decisions, even if they are different than your own. Let them know you really support their decisions.

Many attempts to implement Lean have been superficial. Unfortunately, the reason is that most companies focus too heavily on tools such as 5S and just-in-time, without understanding that Lean is a system that must permeate an organization’s culture and emphasize respect for people.

Tools and techniques are not secret weapons for transforming a business. Toyota’s continued success at implementing these tools stems from a deeper business philosophy based on its understanding of people and human motivation. Its success ultimately rests on its ability to cultivate leadership, teams and culture; to devise strategy; to build supplier relationships; and to establish and maintain a learning organization.

Whether you work at a small or large company, consider how you can create a Lean thinking culture. You may have made some hard decisions about whether or not you have the right people in the right roles to foster this. Having the right talent with the right attitude goes the distance. You can never teach drive and passion. You can always teach skills.

Ask yourself if you are fostering a culture of Lean thinking where you respect your employees and the expertise, they provide each day. Can you leverage this to create lasting value in your company and drive out waste?

In the end Lean is all about people.  The power behind Lean is a management's commitment to continuously invest in its people and promote a culture of continuous improvement.  Establishing good working conditions to promote teamwork is a key component of respect for people.

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