The PEOPLE Factor

The PEOPLE Factor


In the issue of Mission Dantotsu, we discussed THE LEADERSHIP FACTOR. To recall, let me quote from there:

“Here are our conclusions about the hierarchy of factors that drive excellence in an organization:

  1. The single most important factor – the Conductors of the Orchestra – Leadership Factor
  2. The second most important factor – People Factor
  3. The third most important factor – Innovation Factor!”

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of the ‘People factor’ to any organization that aspires to be ‘excellent’.

A few years back Toyota made ‘respect for people’ one of the pillars of ‘The Toyota Way’.  Some companies thought they already practice this concept, and many others just incorporated these words into their ‘models’. Unfortunately, the reality on the gemba is stark!! A vast majority of the organizations that we observe as part of our profession, very nearly disregard the people element. Most confine their ‘HR (read ‘people’) policies’ to supervisors, executives & managers! The rest are handled through IR!!!

There are many reasons for this. Lower costs & relative abundance of unskilled labor; labor laws governing ‘permanent employees’ & ‘contract labor’; the approach of some of the trade unions & vastly varying interpretation of the phrase ‘respect for people’ – drive anti people policies.

The paradox is that these very same organizations want to implement Lean, they want to implement Kaizen® & they want to be operationally excellent! Somehow, we – the Kaizen®/ Lean promotion community, has not been effective in bringing home the unambiguous message that ‘respect for people’ is an essential pre-requisite for Operational Excellence. Without that, it may be possible to get some performance improvement, but it would be impossible to sustain those improvements & to build a Kaizen® culture suitable for long term success in this rapidly changing world.

What is the meaning of the phrase ‘respect for people’? How does it manifest itself from being a fuzzy/ hazy concept to actual practice? For an answer, I would like to share two quotes.

The first one is from Mr. Akio Toyoda, President Toyota Motor Corporation’:

‘At Toyota, we have always invested heavily in developing leaders who understand and live the principles & values of the company. We want our DNA to be encoded in every team member at every level of the company. We expect greatness from all our people. We expect them to accept and conquer challenges that may seem overwhelming at first glance.

A real irony is that ‘respect for people’ requires that people feel the pain of critical feedback. If we do not give people accurate feedback based on real behavior they are not growing and we are not respecting them. The job of a leader is not to put them in positions to fail, but to put them in challenging positions where they must work hard to succeed and still see how they could have been even better. Our goal is for every Toyota team member from the worker on the production floor to our most senior executives to be working to continuously improve themselves.’

The second is attributed to Mr. Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of Matsushita Electric, which gave birth to iconic brands like Panasonic:

‘We build people, our people build products’.

Could leaders in our part of the world also build examples of excellent organizations supported by a strong PEOPLE FACTOR? We would certainly hope so.

by Mr.Vinod Grover (Director – Kaizen Institute India/Africa/Middle East)

Recent Posts

Daily Work Management and its Importance!
Economic Revival – Are we Ready?
Extracting Cash from Working Capital through Lean Distribution

arrow up