It is sometimes said that questioning people is not very respectful. In lean and agile we think it is the other way around: by not questioning the status quo one acts as if humans aren't capable of evolving. Assuming improvement is assuming competence. Respecting people and continuous improvement (kaizen), two of the pillars in Lean, go together.
Respecting people is also about respecting the customer. And continuously improving the service to better meet the customer's human needs, we respect their humanity.
But when isn't continuous improvement respectful? For instance when people far from the actual place, the gemba, decides what would be the right way to improve. How do they know what's best? They don't have the insight from working close to the workers' and customers' reality! They don't know what is really going on. Assuming that they do is disrespectful to the persons who know, and becomes expensive since proposals based on faulty assumptions will fail.
But being on the shop floor doesn't guarantee that you will do continuous improvement. The cognitive biases that affect people far from the gemba will also affect people on the gemba. At the gemba there is more information about value creation and waste, but if the information isn't used in a meaningful improvement process the handling of it is totally waste.
So, working at the gemba, it is respectful to yourself, to your coworkers, and to your customers to learn and apply the tools of continuous improvement. If you are working in one of the processes that support the gemba, which you do if you are a manager, it is respectful if you help the people at the gemba to make it possible for them to do continuous improvement. It is also respectful if you do continuous improvement yourself, together with your peers, for the parts of work that you are responsible for.
Always aim for being better at doing effective continuous improvement. Take responsibility for your part of the work, help people to take responsibility for their part of the work, and always observe reality when you do so. That is how continuous improvement is a way of respecting people.
(The post is an adoption of the fourth part of this old post in Swedish)