Last week I had the pleasure of facilitating a study mission for a group of leaders from a global manufacturer. We visited several companies. Each was two decades into their lean journey. The host companies were generous in sharing their insights. The participants on the study mission were exceptional in their attention and engagement. Everyone should be so fortunate to seek and find such learning.
The agenda included a visit to the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle. They were one of the very first hospitals to apply Toyota Production System principles. In the beginning, their CEO and leadership team spent a week learning in Japan on the factory floor. Imagine the level of humility, curiosity, insight, and courage it took for a hospital CEO to say “We are all going to a factory in Japan to learn how to get better.” Twenty years later, the Virginia Mason Institute helps other hospitals, and even manufacturers, on their lean journeys through seminars, tours, workshops, and consulting.
One of the things that really struck me on this visit was their dedication to building systems around the respect for people pillar. On the one hand, hospitals are organizations who have “care” in their mission, so having a focus on caring for humanity may not be surprising. On the other hand, within the management of healthcare, there are both common and unique factors which result in an erosion of mutual respect. Research showed that quality and safety suffered where there was a lack of respect. Virginia Mason learned this lesson early and addressed it.
Virginia Mason has done many interesting things in how they educate and engage their people, structure their improvement activity, bring new people on board, and align expectations in clear yet flexible ways. I believe there is a strong correlation between their demonstrated long-term success and the level of attention to detail on systems supporting respect for people.
One such artifact is a list of 10 foundational behaviors that promote mutual respect. Virginia Mason shares the story of how this was developed and deployed in an excellent article on respect for people as a building block for engaged people and satisfied patients.
In summary, Virginia Mason’s 10 behaviors that build respect for people are:
1-Listen to understand. Give the speaker your full attention, use nonverbal cues, and avoid interrupting others.
2-Keep your promises. Show others we value them by being reliable and following through on commitments.
3-Be encouraging. Show each other that we care about their ideas, contributions, and success.
4-Connect with others. Acknowledge others, smile, and be courteous.
5-Express gratitude. Give thanks and recognition to others.
6-Share information. Be sure everyone has the information they need to do their job and to feel trusted and included.
7-Speak up. Nurture an environment where everyone can raise issues of physical, mental, and emotional safety.
8-Walk in their shoes. Empathize and understand the point of view of others, be considerate of their time, and ask before assuming.
9-Grow and develop. Share knowledge, seek feedback, and commit to learning.
10-Be a team player. Nurture an environment where help is happily offered, asked for and received, priorities are clearly communicated, and workloads are leveled.
Too often organizations are in a rush to deliver results and overload people with changes, new terminology, and the technical aspects of the system. Luckily we can learn from others who have been down that path before. This top 10 list is a good roadmap to avoid those respect for people stumbling blocks.