"No, you can't have more than ONE photograph of your family on your desk! We are Lean now, remember?" "In this hospital we are Lean, so all our appointment slots have a standardized length and your time is now up!" "Using Lean we have standardized our working processes. If you are to work here, your task is to follow them, not questioning them!"
The paragraph above contains absolutely authentic accounts of what some organizations believe it means to work with the effectiveness, quality, and efficiency of Toyota. I have both seen and heard these beliefs in action, and everytime one talks to other lean guides and agile coaches they have made the same experiences. We are rolling our eyes and make jokes about LAME (Lean As Misguided Executed); and MEAN.
"Hey, those poor people haven't understood! But exactly what is it that they don't understand? Is it possible for us lean guides to help them understand? Maybe by writing something?
During the years, the people at Toyota have experimented with numerous lists of principles, aiming at spreading the understanding of their management philosophy at every level. Today one can say that they have reduced the principles in two points: Continuous improvement and Respect people. And these two points are closely related.
"Show some respect!" "You should respect me!" "Stand up when I talk to you, that would be respectful!" We sometimes use the word respect in a way that connects it with politeness, and often takes it to mean "Hey you, you should acknowledge that you are inferior to me!" But this is not what "Respect people" means when it stands as one of the pillars of lean and agile management philosophy.
I don't speak or understand Japanese, but many people who do have explained to me that the way Toyota writes "Respect people" makes it possible to translate it "Respect the humaneness within each person". Take the human element into account. Stop pretending that we are something else than humans, but instead work smoothly in accordance with that fact.
I would like to share with you three examples of what that means when implementing lean and agile ways of working. And I can assure you that it has very little to do with restricting how many photographs you are allowed to keep on your desk:
(The post is an adoption of the first part of this old post in Swedish)