Category Archives: Respect for People
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
New followers of the blog can use this as an opportunity to read posts they might have not seen in the past. While, long time followers can use this as an opportunity to re-read some of the top viewed posts.
This post will count down the 10th thru 6th most viewed posts of 2011. Enjoy!
5. Comparing Lean Principles to the 14 Toyota Principles (July 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #2 – The first part of a three part series where I compared the lean principles I learned from the Lean Learning Center to the Toyota Principles. This post covers the first five Toyota Principles.
4. Seth Godin and Failing Better (April 2011) – This post dives into a post from Seth Godin talking about how to fail so you learn faster and use that to your advantage.
3. Sportscenter Has Killed U.S. Manufacturing (June 2011) – Manufacturing is fundamental. The U.S. has lost it’s sights on the fundamentals and is just worried about the flashy. The U.s. needs to get back to the fundamentals in order to get back on top.
2. Why Are Lean People Seen As Lean People? (February 2011) – Exploring the question as to why lean people are not seen as more than just lean experts. Looking at a process from end-to-end seems like a good business practice no matter what the role.
1. 5S in the Office (September 2010) – Previous Year Ranked #1 – Most viewed post for two straight years now. A look at using 5S in the office. What is going too far and how to use 5S in the office properly.
I look forward to more posts in 2012!
In the spirit of other blog sites, especially the Management Carnival, I thought I would share some links to a few blogs that found very interesting over the last month or so. I hope you enjoy them.
A Tough Obituary to Write by Bill Waddell – This is a different perspective on the passing of Steve Jobs. This is a point of view I had thought about writing but Bill beat me to the punch and I didn’t want to redo something he had written so well.
Building Your Personal Value Proposition by Bill Barnett – A great post about understanding yourself and what you are interested in. Use that knowledge to know where you fit in a company and build your personal value.
Encourage Talent If You Want It To Grow by Steve Roesler – Steve hits on some great points to help grow talent through encouragement. Even when you feel an employee is doing what they should be doing it is good to encourage them.
Building Manager Standard Work by Jamie Flinchbaugh – This blog will link to his full article at Industry Week. Don’t but a process in place for something that already has a process like check email every day at lunch.
Planning On Not Knowing by David Kasprzak – We won’t always know what do to next but that shouldn’t stop us from planning. Plan in spots to review and determine what to do next.
Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap by John Hunter – If the people don’t have the manufacturing skills they need is that their fault? Or do we have a gap in our management skills?
Assembly Mag Thinks Whirlpool is Lean. Really. by Kevin Meyer – This is about Whirlpool and the fake lean. It hit home because I grew up in Evansville and watch the decline of Whirpool.
While this may be fun for some people who enjoy bargain shopping and getting a great deal, it is a day that everyone seems to lose respect for other people around them.
There will be stories of people being trampled as doors open to stores where crowds have been waiting outside. People will shove, bump, slam into and elbow other people to hurry to get to a item before the store runs out of that particular deal. It truly is amazing to me how everyone forgets common courtesy and manners. If you were in a work place that showed this little respect for people you would quit in a heartbeat and not even think about it.
I understand that not everyone is like that on Black Friday but the number grows exponentially. In fact, there are news stories every single year about some crazy incident that happened.
So, if you are a Black Friday shopper please remember how to respect others as you shop.
Seeing the world through a lean lens can be very frustrating at times. The lean lens helps us to see waste everywhere, in things we do at work or at home. Seeing systems, processes, and businesses end-to-end with a total cost picture becomes easier.
Because of this, it is easy to get frustrated with others that don’t view the world with a lean lens. This is especially true with people in upper management roles. It is easy to think they should see our view easily because they are smart people or they would not have gotten to the position they are in.
I have fallen into this trap myself. My frustrations have become visible and it did not go well. I lost a little bit of credibility with the person because of this.
To help me no become frustrated, I have tried a few things. I try to put myself in their shoes and remember they have been successful without lean thinking. This can make them feel like they already see things well or with a lean lens. I also have to give a compelling story for them to change. In most cases, data and visuals help me make a good case for change.
Like it or not a majority of the people still don’t look at the world through a lean lens. We have to remember that as we met and talk with people. Until the scale is tipped in the direction of lean, we will have to work to keep our frustrations hidden from the people we are trying to convert.
In the workplace and the world around we are inundated with how Generation Y (or the Millennials) are such a different generation. Questions arise asking how to bridge the gap between the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y in the workplace. Generation Y is so much different that we have to make accommodations for them.
People contend the generations are too different and we should treat them that way. On the contrary, I don’t believe that there are any real differences between the generations. Sure Gen Y is more adept at using technology to their advantage but I contend that Generation X was the same way. I always got calls from my mother about computer issues like, “How do you add a border to a cell in Excel?”
The biggest difference I hear about in the workplace is that Gen Y has a target job in mind and will change companies many times to achieve that target job. The job may not be a specific high ranking position in management. It has to do with making a difference and feeling like they accomplished something when they go home at the end of the day. Gen Y was leave a company to continue to seek that.
I really don’t see how that is any different than any other generation. That is basic respect for people. To me, that boils down to a manager understanding what makes his employees tick and putting them in positions to use their strengths in order to succeed. This concept is the basis of the book First, Break All the Rules. The authors studied many mangers over the last several years. This is before Gen Y even hit the workplace. The basic concept is that great managers understand the strengths of their employees and develops their strengths, not their weaknesses, in order to make them successful. People are inclined to want to develop a strength because it is something of interest so they will dive in and learn more.
This is basic human nature, not a generational gap.
I am part of Generation X. When I was younger I heard a lot of similar things about my generation. About how different we were from Baby Boomers and the generation before. I don’t believe it is a generation thing at all. It is a stage of life thing. As people get older we get a different perspective on things. There is nothing wrong with that. We just have to understand it.
The next time you start to blame something on the generational gap stop and ask yourself, “Am I being and old whipper snapper?” or “Am I being a young rebel?” that isn’t understanding what stage of life the other person is in? Or is it truly something that is a generational gap.