Category Archives: Respect for People

Best of Beyond Lean in 2012

I was looking at the Top 10 posts for 2012 and noticed that only 2 posts from 2012 made the Top 10.  Both posts were from earlier in the year.  I finally realized that a post from about May on in the year has very little chance to overcome posts that have a 5 month or more head start on gaining views.

I decided to highlight 5 of the most popular posts written in 2012.  Then in January I will post the Top 10 posts for the year.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!!!!

5.  Misinterpretations of Lean vs. Six Sigma (April 2012) – How Six Sigma and Lean can be misrepresented in what their purpose is.

4.  Strategy A3 Downloadable Template (April 2012) – This is the post about the new downloadable template to help with strategy discussions.

3.  Visuals Used in the Office (October 2012) – A couple of visual management examples from the transactional workplace.

2.  True Mentoring (May 2012) – This is my take on true mentoring versus fake mentoring that goes on in business today.

1.  Need the Mental Toughness of a Navy SEAL (February 2012) – Inspiration of a Navy SEAL got me thinking about the mental toughness it takes to create change.

Have a Happy New Year!!!!

Guest Post: Business Leader Antics That Fail to Inspire

Patrick and Joyce Del Rosario are Filipino business and career bloggers. They work at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of diploma of management and small business courses.

In every business there are defined leaders that help steer teams in the right direction. Problems arise when these leaders put antics before strategy and begin to conjure up different and detrimental ideas about how the business should be motivated to operate. These antics have the potential to change the course of project or company and can be either the success or the downfall of an organization.

If you are a leader, chances are you are aware of the tactics and strategies you use to keep your employees motivated. What you are likely unaware of is the true impact this can have on their motivation and work performance – that is until you get the end results and then it may be too late. Here are some of the top antics to avoid doing as a business leader.

  • Don’t treat employees like a number – Your employees are people. They come to work like you do and they have lives away from the office like you do too. Treating your employees like a number and pushing away their personal needs is a sure fire way to lose acceptance in your leadership skills and respect for your position.
  • Don’t forget your own mission statement – You may have sat down with your team to outline a mission for a project or for the company, but can you remember all of the components that went into drafting this important statement? As a leader, you must live and breathe this mission statement in all you do and all you motivate your employees to do. Not knowing it shows a lack of care on your part and your team will notice.
  • Don’t forget to encourage positive performance – Praise goes a lot ways, especially in the workplace. When you praise your employees, you inspire them to continue doing their best. When you recognize them for nothing but their downfalls, they will curl away from you for fear of more lashings and not have the motivation to do better.
  • Don’t leave your team behind – When you show up late and leave early every day you are sending a signal to your team that you have no care for your position or for their hard work. Instead, as a leader you should stick by their side as they tackle a difficult project or encourage them as they put in the extra effort it will take for your team to go from good to great.
  • Don’t look like a slob – Non-verbal cues are just as meaningful as what you say. When you show up dressed like you just rolled out of bed with stains on your shirt and your hair a mess, your employees will see your lack of care for your position before they hear it. Instead, wear clothing that you will be proud to be seen in. This will allow you to command respect instead of disgust.
  • Don’t blow off e-mail or voicemail responses – When a person takes the time to e-mail you or call you, they have spent a portion, albeit a small portion, of their time reaching out to connect. When you blow off this connection you essentially let the other person know that you have no respect for what they were calling to tell you leaving them feeling frustrated and pushed aside. This can be detrimental to team morale. To avoid it, keep current on your e-mails and do your best to call people back quickly.
  • Don’t make threats – Threats can come in the form of something as simple as telling someone that they could be easily replaced or by commenting about future performance reviews. If an employee needs a boost a better tactic is to encourage and mentor them to achieve their best.

As a boss, the way you act and speak has a profound impact on an office. Use these tips to help remember what not to do.

Great Direct Observation…A Quirk?

Last season a favorite TV show of mine had it’s final season (House).  This season a new show has started that I am enjoying quite a bit (Elementary).  The common thread in both shows is the main character is enthralled with solving the mystery.  The main tool they use is direct observation.  They are incredibly keen with what they see and what it means.

A trait both main characters share is the lack of social grace.  They can be considered jerks with the way they ask questions.  Yet, people overlook this because they solve the mystery.

I know these are TV shows, but to be that great at directly observing work, do you have to forget about social grace?  Does it allow the person ask more direct questions easier?  I don’t think so.  I may not be Dr. House or Sherlock Holmes but people can observe without losing their social grace.  I just find it interesting how TV portrays people with a keen skill for directly observing.

What are your thoughts?  Do you believe a person can ask questions and directly observe without being a jerk and do it at an extraordinary level?

Managing Through Fear and Intimidation

It seems I couldn’t get on any news wire without seeing something on Marissa Mayer last week.  I read a few different articles on Marissa, but The Truth About Marissa Mayer caught my attention the most.

This article from Business Insider talks about a view some at Google had of Marissa.

The other view, more common amongst long-time Googlers, is that Mayer is a publicity-craving, lucky early Googler, whose public persona outstripped her actual authority and power at the company, where she was once a rising star—thanks to a bullying managerial style—but had become marginalized over the past couple of years.

That is quite a view.  What could make people view her in that way?  The way she manage.

This source described an executive who “will work harder than anyone” and “is smarter than 99 percent of the people,” but “can’t scale herself” and “doesn’t understand managing any other way than intimidation or humiliation.”

This source says that when she worked with Mayer at Google, Mayer “was just a nightmare”—someone who had her own publicist, forced underlings to sign customized NDAs, and maintained “a shadow HR staff and a shadow recruiting staff just for her team.”

“No one understood why she had the power that she had, except that she will literally work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

“She used to make people line up outside of her office, sit on couches and sign up with office hours with her. Then everybody had to publicly sit outside her office and she would see people in five minute increments. She would make VPs at Google wait for her. It’s like you’ve got to be kidding.”

This source says that for a time, Mayer attended executive coaching lessons with Bill Campbell, but that the gossip is he refused to keep teaching her because she was unreceptive to feedback. Another source confirms a falling out between Campbell and Mayer, but doesn’t know why it happened.

This sounds like a text book example of traditional management style through fear and intimidation to the extreme.  Really.  She made people (including executives) wait outside her office for 5 minute meetings!  Some of this is Google’s other leaders’ fault because they allowed it to happen.

It was mentioned that most of this happened earlier in her career and some believe she has changed.

This source is now a “huge fan” of Mayer’s, but says “I used to not be.”

“I honestly thought she was crazy [during her early years at Google].”

This person says that Mayer used to be a polarizing executive at Google because of quirks—like how she managed her underlings and fought political battles with other top executives—but that “she is really not so much any more.”

“She is 37 now, and she was in her late 20s less than a decade ago. Like all people, she matured and learned. It’s not fair to cast her in the mold of when she was 28 or 29. She is a different person and leader now.”


But, says this source, there are lots of people at Google who want to work for her. For example, there’s the story of Jen Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick went on maternity leave while working for Mayer. When she came back, she had a new boss. Google had gone through a massive re-org, and Mayer had been moved to a different organization. Mayer then asked Fitzpatrick to join her new team. If Mayer was a tyrant, this would have been a great opportunity for Fitzpatrick to say no, and escape. But she didn’t; she joined Mayer’s staff.

It sounds like Marissa Mayer is changing.  This is good.  I imagine she is still has a traditional fear and control style of management but it is softer.  If she hasn’t changed enough, will she lose the backing of Yahoo!’s employees?  The article points to the fact that it worked for Steve Jobs.  So we should copy that?  No way.  I see Steve Jobs as an exception.  Is Yahoo such a name brand company to work for that people will stay no matter what?

I wouldn’t expect Yahoo! to adopt lean anytime soon.  What do you think?

Respect for People on the Harvard Business Review Blog

I am way behind on a couple of great blogs I saw on the Harvard Business Review Blog. One of them is Get Your Workers to Disrupt Their Jobs by Brad Power.

The blog is about engaging employees to improve their processes.

…start process innovation by asking front-line workers how to improve their jobs. Competition and customer demands mean that the most efficient and effective process should always be sought — but finding it requires contributions from the people doing the work. The benefits of the front-line driving improvements include pride of ownership that sustains the changes, less worry for managers about whether the changes will be adopted, and reduced costs for outside consultants. Changes that are imposed are at best accepted grudgingly and at worst sabotaged.

Bingo! I think Brad nailed it well. Then a friend of his asked a good question that I have also gotten in the past.

But a friend was skeptical that workers will identify radical, cross-functional changes to a process that will step on others’ turf or could eliminate their jobs. Is it really possible he asked, to create the conditions where workers will disrupt or even eliminate their jobs and the jobs of co-workers?

Short answer is yes, if there is no fear of losing their jobs do to continuous improvement. I have worked for companies that have made that promise and it has worked to engage the people. When I worked for an automotive supplier, three employees came to management and said they could get the work cell from 3 people to 1 person and meet the demand. The management said do it. It worked beautifully and the other two people were assigned to other work cells that needed help.

Brad got the same opinion from Orry Fuime.

Consider Wiremold, a manufacturer of cable management systems. In 1992 the company was in cost-cutting mode, and, as former CFO Orry Fiumetold me, it was consequently offering an early retirement package designed to reduce headcount. But the company also needed to make its processes more productive, and didn’t want employees overly focused on headcount reduction, so immediately following Fiume’s announcement, the new CEO Art Byrne told employees that nobody would lose employment due to process improvement activities. He felt this was necessary to encourage employees to identify all the changes the company needed, including those which might disrupt their jobs. W. Edwards Deming, the guru of total quality management, called this “driving out fear.”

But most CEOs will strenuously resist making a qualified job guarantee like Art Byrne. Why? Because they believe that nobody can guarantee employment. Notice, however, that Wiremold did not guarantee employment. It assured employees that they would not lose their job as a result of their participation in continuous improvement activities. It didn’t say their jobs wouldn’t change, or that the company wouldn’t lay off people for survival in the event of a major economic downturn, or that individuals couldn’t lose their job due to poor performance.

I found the blog interesting because all but one company/person mentioned were well respected lean companies/people (Orry, Art Byrne, Dr. Deming, Wiremold, Parker-Hannifin, Lantech). The overriding theme was the respect for people. Ask for their ideas to improve, share the big picture with them don’t hide it, reward them for their help. These all have to do with respecting the people of the business and organization.

I hope this blog gets circulated around. These are the behaviors to look for within a company. These are behaviors a lean company exhibits whether they use the term lean or not is not important. Respecting the people is. With their engagement in the continuous improvement process a company can make great strides in productivity and growth.

The Customer Feedback Loop

The focus of lean is first and foremost on the customer.  What is of value to the customer is the first question that should be asked?  A lot of organizations do a good job of asking for feedback from their customers.  What usually is missing is the feedback loop back to the customer.

While visiting an offsite location of the company I work for I saw this book in the cafeteria.

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

This is left by the company that services the cafeteria.  Not only does the company ask the customers fore feedback and suggestions, the fourth column is a feedback loop to the customer.  It is a reply letting the customer know what if the suggestion is possible or what work they are doing on the suggestion.  The company is completing the loop.

Too many times companies ask for the feedback do not complete the loop back to  the customer.  This is good example of giving feedback to the customer so they know they are being listened to.

If you want feedback from customers, then make sure you they know you are using it.

Book Review: How Can We Make Manufacturing Sexy?

I first interacted with Karin two years ago when she asked the question, “How can we make manufacturing sexy?” on the AME LinkedIn group.  It generated a great conversation and spurred one of my first blog posts.  That question has led her to write her book of the same title.

Name of the Book:  How Can We Make Manufacturing Sexy?

Author: Karin Lindner

Publication Date:  April 2012

Book description: what’s the key message?

Karin has a very strong passion for bringing manufacturing back to North America.  She believes manufacturing product where it is sold is fundamental to any economy’s health.  In order to bring manufacturing back to North America we have to make it sexy, as Karin puts it.  We have to change people’s mindsets so they want to be part of a manufacturing organization and environment.  Karin believes the key is through engaging people from top to bottom within an organization to help improve the business.

The heart of this book is about the Respect for People pillar of lean.  Karin writes about engaging the workforce and being leaders that listen to the people that work for us, not giving them answers and criticizing their execution.  It is a very good book and I can help manufacturing organizations engage employees.  I am a firm believer in manufacturing in North America myself and appreciate Karin’s passion.  I like that she is focusing on making manufacturing sexy again.  This book can be for any industry though.  It’s message is universal.

What are the highlights? What works?

Two topics Karin drives home are changing and growing ourselves as leaders and tapping into the intellect of everyone in the company.

Karin discusses how leadership is disconnected from the people who manufacture the product.  Leadership got too greedy and had no imagination of what could be.  Leadership of most companies have become focused on the short-term gains too look profitable and not the long-term needs that create sustainability and growth.

Leaders cannot change people but they can change themselves by learning and growing.  Modeling this behavior can drive their people to want to make changes also.  If leaders want to change, they have to change themselves.  One way for leaders to change, from the book, is to start asking more questions instead of trying to have all the answers.

Karin also discusses the importance of engaging all employees for their ideas to improve the business.  In order to tap into their brainpower, you have to show them respect.  Leaders must remember to empower their people don’t overpower them.  Creating an environment where people feel respected opens their ability to be creative about opportunities for improvement.

What are the weaknesses?  What’s missing?

The book is very good about asking questions and getting a person to think.  Karin purposely does not give answers in the book.  She states this and is very upfront about it.  From a lean perspective, I really like how she does this.  Lean is about helping a person understand the issue and find a solution that is best for them and their situation.  Not about giving answers.  On the flip side, some examples and ways to change the behaviors of leaders and engage the employees would have been nice to try and kick start the thinking.  I can see some people walking away from this book wondering what to do next.  Not knowing can stall them and then nothing changes.  Something I’m sure Karin does not want to happen.

While the book is focused on how to make manufacturing appealing (sexy), this book is relevant in any type of industry.  As stated earlier, it really is about the Respect for People Pillar of the lean philosophy.  Leaders changing and being more of a teacher and coach versus command and control is applicable anywhere.  No matter what job or industry we should be engaging our people to help make the business better.

How should I read this to get the most out of it?

This book is about leadership and how to be more a “lean leader” in today’s world.  It is about respect for people and truly showing it.  I see how this book can help manufacturing.  The perception is that respecting the employees does not happen in a manufacturing environment.  I would say that can be the case anywhere.  Any leader from any industry can learn from this book, not just manufacturing.

More Learning from an Elementary School

Learning without fear of consequences is what lean thinkers expect from their environment.  At a traditional workplace, this does not happen a majority of the time.

When I spent time with my kids at their elementary school this was the foundation of how the school operated.  The school provided a very large learning zone.  The learning zone is the amount of room or flexibility a person has to try new things and learn without the fear of repercussions.  The larger the learning zone the more a person can stretch their ideas and try new things.


What impressed me about the school wasn’t the the learning zone for the academic part of learning but the size of the learning zone that is given for the behavioral aspects.  The librarian stuck out in my mind the most.  During the kids’ time in the library, she would gently correct the child if they weren’t following the rules.  At the end of their time in the library, the kids would line up and the librarian would then go through an exercise of evaluating their behavior.  She would give the kids a scale of 1 -5 and explain what each number meant for effort.  Then one-by-one she would ask each child to rate themselves.  The honestly that came from the kids was incredible.  Some saying they honestly gave a low effort  and rating themselves at a 1 or 2.

The librarian never criticized them.  She just asked if they would give a better effort next time and the kids always said yes.  She tracked the number the kids gave in a book to compare to each time to look for a pattern or trend.

The kids felt completely safe to be honest and by asking if they would give a better effort next time helped the kids become accountable for their behavior.

This does not mean they can do whatever they want.  This would be an infinite sized learning zone.  But the learning zone she provided was large enough for the kids to explore their own behavior during their time with her in the library.

When do we lose that learning zone?  When do we switch from learning being the most important to execution being the most important and forget all about learning?  How can we create safe learning zones at work as we ask people to change behaviors of a lean leader?


Go To Where They Are At

Leading change from a traditional way of working to the lean way of thinking can be very frustrating.  When you have seen how efficient and profitable an organization can be you want them to be there RIGHT NOW.  The problem with this thinking is we can’t get there right now.  The other organizations that have had great success did not get there instantly either.  It took time and hard work.

All of this can be frustrating if it is allowed to be.  As change leaders we can’t let it be.  We have to remember to go to where people are at mentally and emotionally with the change.  We have to bring them along one step at a time.  Before you know it, you will start to see the change to lean thinking and results will follow.

Unfortunately, the bigger the organization you are working with the more time and the harder work it will take.  Like steering a cruise ship, a large organization will not turn quickly.  Sometimes the organization is so large you are not seeing the change occur even though it is happening.

Remember to have patience.  Patience is not an excuse to go slow.  Patience is pushing to move forward as fast as they can stand without alienating them even though they may not be moving as fast as you believe they should or could.

From time to time, remember to step back and look at all the positive changes that have taken place.  Moving forward is something we should remember to celebrate to help keep the perspective.


As I’m sure a lot of self described “Lean Thinkers” have, I have had a bunch of discussions about where to start at with Lean.  My mostly philosophical point of view is that 5-S isn’t the best place to start because you can’t do the Sort step until you define what is really needed in a work area.  Taking that a step back, you can’t define what is needed in a work area until you have defined and somewhat smoothed your production/demand.  I have seen several points of view that 5S is a great place to start because “If you can’t do 5S you won’t be able to do anything else.”*

I have come face to face with the harsh reality again that what matters most is that you are committed to it, not where you start.  I realize that this isn’t news or even a question for most Lean folks.  Sometimes in our journey of preaching the Lean gospel, we are confronted with people who aren’t at all ready to change who they are to follow the Lean path.  They may want to overlay a few tools for show or toss terminology around as the latest buzzwords.  At most levels of the organization, people that think like that can be worked with, developed, or, at the very least, worked around for a while.  When the lack of commitment is at the top, it makes you wonder why they even pretend.

For the record, I don’t mean this as any sort of contempt for those that don’t want to do Lean.  I have no problem with people that aren’t interested in Lean and are honest about it.  My concern is for people that fake an interest and only want to toy around with Lean.  That type of activity does a great disservice to not only Lean as an effective way of doing business, but to the people that work under them and are forced to take part in things that are clearly unimportant to their managers.  The whole charade is a giant waste of resources.

In the situation that has brought this brush with reality, I could just simply back out and not “help” this person any more.  But, I do worry about how many extremely bright, talented, and capable future Lean leaders are stuck in situations that they can’t get out of as cleanly for whatever reason.  The concept of wasted human potential has long been a fundamental of true Lean.  I wonder how much potential has been wasted by the fake committed.


*I believe this quote or something really similar was in the book, “The Gold Mine”, but I can’t seem to find it. I try to not use unattributed quotes or statements, but I couldn’t find exactly where I first heard this.  I apologize if I incorrectly assigned credit for this.  If anyone remembers or can source the origin, please let me know and I’ll correct it.  Thanks.


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