17. Jul. 2015

Respect vs Being Nice

by Peet Wiid

You can be nice but does it imply you are respectful?

Respect for people is the backbone of the KAIZEN™ philosophy as seen in the Toyota Production System. But what does respect mean? I was contemplating this concept when I returned a product to a company after it was serviced but was still defective regardless of their checklist being completed.

The people were very nice and friendly but they did not do what they said they would. They were also very courteous when they went through the checklist with me before I drove back home. This engagement with the supplier was initially, from an emotional perspective, quite positive.

However, respect is more than just an emotion although it entails our emotions. You need to feel respected and happy with the people around you in the workplace, your family and your cultural or religious groups. Experiencing a positive "connection" when dealing with a supplier is really important HOWEVER, emotions are not the only, or even the most important, way to experience or to show respect.

Respect is ultimately about actions. Do you really value the next person in your process to such an extent that you will go out of your way to satisfy the needs of that person? Is everybody in the process of creating your valued product or service focused on ensuring quality? Your customer is not only defined as the ultimate person buying and using your services or products.

This is what quality thinking is – treating the next operation in a process as the customer. Respect endeavours to prevent a defect being passed on to the next person or machine in the production line. Your attitude, skills and actions result in providing a quality product or service, delivered in full and on time according to customer specifications.

In the earlier example it would have been important for the technician to have ensured that what's been ticked on the checklist has actually been done. The supervisor should have confirmed this as well. Unfortunately the manager ended up with the problem of their process not focused on quality and service delivery. One might wonder how many of these incidents occur per week or per month... Do they have targets to reduce these problems? Are the technicians aware of these targets and actively pursuing excellence to ensure customers are satisfied? These are the questions the KAIZEN™ approach wants to answer.

Deep-seated respect is about treating the people around you as you want to be treated. You don’t want to receive or send incorrect information on your month-end reports or works orders. You don’t like rectifying someone else’s mistakes in the production line because they don’t work carefully and meticulously according to standards. So why pass those errors and mistakes on to others?

"We need to build respect into our processes"

When everybody, every day and everywhere in your team has this mind set, surely the quality of products and services will improve. Productivity will also increase because more time and resources are being spent on actual work and not wasteful activities like rework, returns and investigations to find a scapegoat. This frame of mind will help a team to deliver its products and services in full and on time and within the customer’s specifications - resulting in returning and happy clients.

Respect is about experiencing positive feelings as a customer and a supplier but in the end it is our actions that determine whether we have respect or not; whether we have matured on our Lean journey.

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