Respect for People

If I respect you, how do you know? Over the years I have been fortunate to visit hundreds of organizations as a passionate coach of the Toyota Production System (yes, it is completely connected to the Thinking People System).  I have this honor because people within Toyota have respected me enough to invest time, skill and their very last nerve to help me grasp how to make a worksite better for all the people-the customers, employees, suppliers and distributors.

Every time I visit an organization I hear some version of how much they respect the people.  I am sure that you have heard this as well through tours, advertisements, slogans, rankings of the best places to work, etc.  The list goes on.

I always ask what this means to them and I repeatedly hear a list of THINGS and PROGRAMS:

  • Great pay and  benefits
  • Training
  • Flexible work hours
  • Daycare
  • Fitness Facilities
  • A nice cafeteria

Sometimes the list of how to show respect includes empowerment.   This involves a mix of suggestion boxes, open door management, visual systems in the workplace that show the condition of the day, week, month, quarter or year.  There is nothing wrong with these THINGS and PROGRAMS.

And yet, something IS terribly wrong.  What about the actual work we are asking people to perform?

Here I have some serious questions running through my head and out my eyes.

Does it:

  • foster a sense of accomplishment at the end of every day?
  • demonstrate that the organization could not meet customer needs without them?
  • encourage them to raise problems and solutions without a sense of fear?
  • arrange their worksite so that it is comfortable and logical to them?
  • show them how their work is connected to the rest of the work being done?
  • require that they think about the work and how it could be improved?

As you walk through the worksites within your area of responsibility, ask yourself these questions while keenly observing the work.  If you can answer yes to all of the above, congratulations!  You have some form of a Thinking People System.  If you can't answer yes, it is okay as long as you know you have some important work to do.

Next time, I will introduce a concept called chi-e which will help you look at the work from a scientific yet heartfelt view of how to genuinely respect people.

- Lesa