Kaizen/Lean leaders can drive out cultural fear by showing a consistent and genuine respect for those who do the work – where the work is being done. Dr. Deming spoke of respect in the workplace frequently during his career, but it was a different kind of respect. It was a respect shown where the work was being done. His observation was that a front line worker who regularly experiences episodes of respect from their supervisor or senior leader for the work they do and the way in which they do it will continue to perform that way. Further, that employee will develop a vested interest in helping sustain improvements because their improvement was visibly valued by leadership.
Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System (TPS), displayed a consistent respect for those who did the work and he spent much of his time among them, asking questions and listening. At Toyota, respect for the worker is an essential ingredient of their continuous process improvement culture.
In the 1990s, Stephen Covey coined a saying that captures the heart of respect in the workplace for those who do the work. He said. “To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness.”