Respect for people is central to Toyota. However, for many lean practitioners, respect for people is an elusive and aspirational concept. In spite of the best efforts of many, there are still lean practitioners out there who simply do not ‘buy into’ the people part of lean.
S A Partners have articulated the importance of people, culture and behaviours in a variety of ways over recent years: we have a people enabled processes element to our Lean Business Model®; we identified ‘under the waterline’ elements in our iceberg model; we continue to develop and research our lean culture offer; and, we focus on coaching as the primary mechanism for diffusing lean competence across an organisation. Our attention to the ‘people side of lean’ is built on our collective belief that this is crucial for successful and sustainable lean transformation. This belief, in turn, is informed and shaped by our experience of working alongside many diverse organisations over the last two decades.
Now, however, others are beginning to gather scientific evidence that good people management is directly inextricably linked to business results. Here are two examples I have come across recently:
First, Shingo have recently announced their new SCOPE product. The SCOPE acronym stands for Shingo Cultural Online Performance Evaluation. The idea is that companies carry out this self-assessment as a precursor to their annual business review and use the information as an input to guide their decision-making during that process. Over time, SCOPE will enable Shingo to gather data and evaluate the relationship between culture and performance. If companies do go ahead and carry out the assessment at different points in time, as Shingo suggest they should, it will allow all sorts of trends and patters confirming (or otherwise) that a focus on the ‘people side’ of the business really does improve the bottom line.
Second, Birkinshaw and Caulkin recently reported on an experiment carried out within a sales and service team at a Swedish insurance company. The idea was to test what many years of research had suggested: that the latent talent residing in employees could be released by giving them more freedom and autonomy in how they carried out their work, and by freeing up the manager of the group to spend more time on the sales floor coaching and helping them. The experiment required the design of new ways of working. After three weeks of the new way of working, the results were impressive. The headline results figure was a five per cent increase in sales over the period of the experiment, compared with the three previous weeks.
We will continue to collect and comment on the evidence that is beginning to accumulate that ‘good people management practices’ are not just altruistic aspirations that most of us cannot afford to pay real attention to, but that they really are integral to ensuring our organisations are fit for survival and prosperity.