One of the underlying principles of the Toyota Production System is the founder’s desire to instill in Toyota’s workers a deeply spiritual sense of respect for humanity in the course of operating a manufacturing company. Although that may like an absurd juxtaposition in today’s modern world, it made perfect sense in Japan 75 years ago to associate an enterprise based on craft and emerging technology with the desire to benefit humanity. It seems more relevant and necessary as we look at the rickety shack of global capitalism and wonder. Ron Pereira wrote about 7 practical ways to respect people on February 2nd, and here are 3 more practical ways to show respect for humanity.
- Speak no jargon. Pete Abilla wrote a wonderful and deeply felt piece yesterday on how to be a human making the point that it is disrespectful when we allow our language to obscure reality, especially when talking about people and employment in ways that lessen the real human impact of decisions businesses make. Jargon can arise from willful deceit by CEOs, analysts, politicians or anyone seeking to influence or polarize a discussion. Those of us who unthinkingly accept jargon without questioning why we need a new and different word to mask something unpleasant can be complicit in a lie. Even without knowing, those of us who intend to educate an audience but do so without explaining the meaning of a technical term or foreign word may only alienate the listener by making them feel ignorant and afraid to ask “what does that mean?” It does not make us smart when we use jargon, although we may feel smarter by using words or expressions only understood by those “in the club”. In fact we are cutting ourselves off from a part of humanity by making it more difficult to be understood.
- Ask for help. It’s surprising how seldom people ask for help. Perhaps people are proud, afraid or simply not self-aware. That is why humility is important. There is a reason that Toyota and other companies that practice the the principle of built-in quality through the andon (lamp) system don’t merely invite people to pull the cord, they require it. Once we have removed the fog of jargon and we know what “normal” conditions are, we must raise the yellow flag as soon as we sense something is amiss, so that we can contain and correct before we have a red flag situation. One way to show respect for humanity is to admit that we are all imperfect and need help from others. Only by reaching out and asking for help, and in turn making it easy for others to ask for help, can we progress from selfish individuals to a connected humanity. Good ideas are useless until they are shared.
- Learn from others. Respect means that you recognize the power, wisdom or worth of some thing or person. If we accept for a moment that knowledge has worth, knowledge is power, and that wisdom can result from a quest for knowledge and understanding, we should approach every human interaction as an opportunity to learn. People are a collection of experiences that form their beliefs and behaviors. We can learn and grow by interacting with others and being open to who they are. As we share our own ideas, teach or simply be ourselves we can also learn from the reaction of others, and whether they are open to us or not.
It was about this time last year that we explored Toyota’s respect for people principle in some depth. Perhaps in the lean community February is Respect for People month just as it is Black History Month in the United States.