Recently I caught up with a good friend I haven’t seen for some time. I was pleased to see how positive he was about his work. He told me with excitement about the way the senior leaders are treating him (in middle management) with respect. He couldn’t stop talking about this rewarding experience he was going through in this Lean-run organisation. Here are some of the things that really impressed him:
· Constant focus on the gemba (the place where value is mainly added, like the shop floor in manufacturing),
· Senior management’s support of frontline staff members to make improvements at the gemba,
· Standards are continuously created based on these improvements and then further enhanced,
· No fear of blaming and ridiculing – people are free to be transparent,
· People are developed as they learn from solving these (transparent) problems,
· Positive feelings about himself and his workplace,
· Excited to come to work and to make improvements,
· Feeling respected.
This KAIZEN™ management style brings freedom AND responsibility for my good friend and his colleagues. This KAIZEN™ spirit is almost tangible. I could see it in his face, his body language – radiant with positivity. I get excited when I meet people like this and hear inspiring stories about respectful and caring leaders because there are not too many of them around... Isn’t this what more people should experience in the workplace? Why do we have to tolerate debilitating behaviour from disrespectful managers, team leaders, and colleagues? Being rude, creating fear and being self-obsessed is not a sign of strength; quite the opposite.
A way to minimise this type of behaviour in an organisation is to set staff satisfaction and people engagement as a target condition and then to monitor progress. With other words, we are making the problems related to our behaviour, and the waste it generates, more transparent or visible. Surely, a KAIZEN™ leader will be at the gemba and will get immediate feedback from employees about their problems. Nonetheless, it can be helpful to measure staff satisfaction at the gemba in our efforts to become a Leaner team. The question is how can we measure this in a simple and easy way? Perhaps you have some suggestions - I would enjoy hearing from you.
KAIZEN™ is more than just cold, clinical Lean tools enforced by management. It recognises the importance of the emotional context of our operations by improving the way we engage with people and the way we lead them. Having motivated and happy staff members can contribute powerfully towards reaching the overarching objectives of an organisation as propagated by Richard Branson and other influencers.
I wish more people can be as radiant, engaged and inspired to be at work as my good old friend. But, even more than this, we need to see more organisations with senior leaders like my friend has…