"Respect for people" is one of the two pillars of Toyota’s corporate culture and the Lean management philosophy. Yet, people think it’s just about being polite.
If you ask 100 top-level managers "Do you respect your employees?", you will probably receive a hundred answers "Of course, I treat employees with respect and dignity". If your answer is similar, then you are in trouble.
Being polite to co-workers and maintaining good relationships should happen by default. "Respect for people" is a much wider concept that should affect the way you see and maintain processes for the sake of your company’s future success.
Respect for People’s Opinion
Listening to opinions is easy, but not enough. You need to look after them and create a sharing culture among all hierarchy levels. Workers who are on the field probably have the best understanding of how processes actually happen. This makes them a gold mine for generating new ideas and achieving continuous improvements.
Go and ask your team if there is a problem or if something can be done in a better way. Then raise a discussion about what may have caused the problem. Do this on a regular basis. You will be surprised by the amount of information you will receive and its practical application. After all, the people who do the job can provide you with top quality feedback.
Having different points of view is priceless. But this is just the beginning of the journey.
Respect for People’s Suggestions
After you collect a great number of opinions, you have to proceed with finding a solution. Many high-level managers are tempted to collect all the valuable information and then try to develop and propose a solution on their own. Why? To steal the spotlight and take all the credit. Don’t do this.
First of all, there is a much higher chance that a highly efficient suggestion for improvement will come from the front line workers. Your team is familiar with the daily work in details and every member is able to give a proper suggestion because they know what exactly may cause a problem. They see it every day.
Second, if you try to take all the credit, you will close the doors for future improvements. Imagine, if you do this, the next time when you go and ask your team for good ideas, you will only receive silence. No one will trust you. In other words, your team will keep their ideas and probably they won’t even care about the common goals of the company.
If you really want to apply the principles of Lean management and make them work for you, keep in mind that Lean encourages shared responsibility and shared leadership.
Respect for People’s Ability to Challenge
First, you tried to collect some opinions. Then, you discussed suggestions. So far so good. However, you need to create an atmosphere where people not only share their points of view when being asked, but they raise questions and challenge the process without being asked.
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