Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Norman learns to show respect . . . again

I had the pleasure of meeting Norman Faull late last year in Johannesburg when we presented together some thoughts on process improvement to South African hospital folks. He is as kind, thoughtful, and respectful a person as you could imagine.  So when he reports that he is not necessarily respectful, I take notice.  His message is important, so please stick with me--especially if you are a Lean advocate or practitioner.

Here's a recent column he wrote.  Excerpts:

Some of us are not very good at showing respect.

‘Show respect’ is one of the core calls we make to lean leaders. That simple phrase was presented to me at a Lean Summit in the USA around 2007. The speaker was John Shook and he was quoting from a conversation that he had recently had with his former Toyota boss and then Global Chairman of Toyota, Fujio Cho. It was the third of ‘Three keys to Lean Leadership’; John presented them thus (in these exact words):
  1. Go See – “Senior management must spend time on the shop floor.”
  2. Ask Why – “Use the ‘Why?’ technique daily.”
  3. Show Respect – Respect your people.
The cherry on the top for me was when John gave us Cho’s expansion on the last point: you respect a person when you work with them with an attitude that shows you believe in them.

And here is the important bit of self-awareness:

I’m not good at this ‘show respect’ thing. Not that I want to be disrespectful, but I like my thinking and feeling to flourish. And all too often I do this by telling and advising, rather than asking others for their thoughts and reflections, because I think I have the answers so why waste time in asking.

And the particular example:

I had a good lesson a few weeks ago. I was sitting in on a meeting between members of the Gauteng Department of Health first cohort of lean learners and an embattled departmental team at a busy public hospital.

The learners presented their analysis. The departmental staff listened patiently. Without pushing the point, the learners were suggesting a reallocation of staff, from areas of low intensity to the bottleneck process. At a certain point they asked the departmental staff, “What do you think would help to reduce waiting time for the patients?”

“We need more staff,” came the reply. And I sighed in silent exasperation, as I have too often heard this kind of reply, a reply that shows that the analysis set out has not been understood. It is also the reply you get before you even start the analysis. So my knee-jerk is to explain all over again, running the risk of sending a message of impatience and exasperation, rather than respect, to my colleagues.

Fortunately it was not my meeting. So the response was far better. “If you had more staff, where would you allocate them?” was the response from the lean learners. With that question the discussion could continue ‘with respect’ and with thinking and feeling fully engaged.

The message:  Even those versed in Lean--and especially those overconfident about the power of Lean thinking--need occasional reminders about how to show respect.

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