I asked Michael Balle in a past interview (Related Podcast and Transcription: Pushing Kaizen Beyond the Walls) what the term “respect” means in Lean. Michael Ballé is the co-author of, The Gold Mine, and The Lean Manager. His most recent book is Lead with Respect.
Joe: You touched upon a point there. In “Lean”, can you define what respect means?
Michael Balle: We try. We try. I think that the tools are very easy to define because they’re quite specific. I can give you my own take on respect, and I’ll be very cautious on this, as this is the result of my current work. The way I see it, respect has two very pragmatic things. The most immediate thing I see: respect is about making sure people understand their opinion counts. This is as pragmatic as it gets, is that you acknowledge people’s opinions all the time. It doesn’t mean you agree with them. Understanding doesn’t mean agreement, but we use the production analysis board with the comments all the time.
We use specific ways of just saying to people, “We hear your opinion on this. And we’re interested in your opinion. And please give us your opinion.” I think it’s very important for people who work in a company that they understand that the senior people actually take their opinion into account.
The second part I would say about respect, which the deeper part is; I believe that people in a company have a right to succeed. It’s not a duty to succeed. It’s a right to succeed.
They have a right to succeed in their day. They have a right to come home saying, “Darling,” to their partners, “Darling, I’ve had a really good day, I’ve succeeded.” And they have a right to succeed in their career.
This is part of what management should do. How do we create situations where people can succeed? I believe that this trust that comes from this is very powerful. This mutual trust is built on mutual wins.
It’s short wins, and this goes with the Kaizen, is that if people work together and have wins together, in short, ways, they will build this trust. This is so powerful for companies.
So, respect has many, many different dimensions. One is the teamwork that we were talking about. You develop individuals by teaching them how to solve problems with others. The other is this notion that it has to be a win-win. It has to be some element of shared success that leads to developing these mutual trusts.
Targeting what your Customer Values at each stage of the cycle will increase your ability to deliver quicker, more accurately and with better value than your competitor. It is a moving target and the principles of Lean and PDCA facilitates the journey to Customer Value.