Respect People

“Respect People” is a key tenet of Lean. Of course, who wants to disrespect people?! Still, when people study why Lean works in one company and does not work in another; the answer some of the best people give is: Respect. Respecting people is truly realized at  successful companies.

Jim Womack leads the Lean Enterprise Institute. Go to

Womack & Jones wrote “Lean Thinking,” which you must read.

Last December, Jim Womack wrote a letter where he talked about what “Respect for People” means in a Lean context.

Here’s a key quote:

Managers begin by asking employees what the problem is with the way their work is currently being done. Next they challenge the employees’ answer and enter into a dialogue about what the real problem is. (It’s rarely the problem showing on the surface.)

Next, they ask what is causing this problem and enter into another dialogue about its root causes. (True dialogue requires the employees to gather evidence on the gemba – the place where value is being created — for joint evaluation.)

They ask what should be done about the problem and ask employees why they have proposed one solution instead of another? (This generally requires considering a range of solutions and collecting more evidence.)

Then they ask how they – manager and employees – will know when the problem has been solved, and engage one more time in dialogue on the best indicator.

Finally, after agreement is reached on the most appropriate measure of success, the employees set out to implement the solution.

This is not simple. It does not say that one person knows everything. It is not mere consensus building — it is engaged and committed knowledge creation with some healthy “intellectual fighting.”

How does this sit for you with Agile? Does this approach make sense with managers outside the team working with team members?

I will guess it provides more respect to the team member now than many actually receive. Also, more engagement with a manager than many get now — at least that is what I have typically seen.

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