First do not harm


One of the principles of medicine is not to hurt your patient (“First do no harm”). The same happens with lean: the principle of “respect for people” is basic and applies both to your workers and your customers. As Mr. Ok once said to me, “respect for people means developing, challenging and listening to your people. You also show it if you are honest and apply to yourself the same rules you demand to others. It is not being nice. Sometimes telling somebody that he is wrong is the greatest mark of respect possible”.

A team that does not feel respected will not support and improve the process. Take into account the following:

  • Make your people work in improvement projects that make sense and are important. Few things are more frustrating that working hard in something nobody cares about (Purpose).
  • Never change anything without involving those who do the work. Let them develop their own ideas and decide what to implement. Let them try things you don’t agree with. Let them fail. Make them accountable for the results. (Autonomy).
  • Teach your people the lean concepts they need and then let them practice and teach others. Create experts who are a reference among their peers (Mastery).
  • Support the team and help them when they are in trouble, but don’t interfere or force them to implement the ideas you like.

Few lean projects fail because the tools and techniques have been used wrong. Even if this happens, there is always a second chance to try something different. Second chances are much harder to get when people do not feel respected.

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