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Jim Benson

Customer Care

Respect As a Lean Agile Lens

We could do with a few more conversations about respect

Published: Monday, March 15, 2021 - 13:02

Respect is an abused word. Weak minds use it as a placeholder for fear. Weak egos will demand it up front. Weak hearts will use it to attach themselves to people of bluster, wishing they could be so outspoken.

We could do with a few more conversations about respect.

We can see here, sadly, that our focus on respect is at an all-time low (or at least as of the last 220 years). We should do something about this.

Respect for other people, in this lens, is at the heart of lean and agile. But neither explicitly builds respect into its means and methods. Respect for other professionals is required in any healthy system of work. Anything short is abuse or slavery.

When we use respect as a lens, we are constantly asking ourselves, “How is the individual affected by this system?” “How are these professionals able to grow in this system?” “How does the system improve under the influence of these people?”

We are respecting capability—that the professionals in the system can and should be excellent participants in and caretakers of the system we are creating. 

We are respecting judgement—that they are adults and can make good decisions, as long as we don’t put obstacles in their way.

We are respecting their impulses—that they are human beings and subject to the same cognitive biases and triggers as everyone else, and that our visual systems should be designed to provide actionable information in a useful way.

We are respecting humanity—that our relationships and communication directly impact people’s ability to perform.

We are respecting their individuality—their unique perspectives, different daily routines, and different lives which lead them to come to different conclusions that provide deeper discussions while coming up with ideas, problem solving, or support for other team members.

We are respecting their drive. Some days we come to work excited and ready; other days we don’t. Our colleagues are no different. We also all have different interests, different focuses, different things we “geek out” on. Those interests are motivators. It’s particularly important to respect what, in every professional, makes them that professional.

We are respecting their ability to grow. In nature there are two states, growth and decay. All team members will thrive as long as they are learning, improving, and giving a damn about what they are doing together. Are you surprised to find “give a damn” in there? Well, unless you are mold, you tend to have to care about something in order to actually grow.

Respect as a lens is an acknowledgement that a healthy team must optimize in a way that allows people to thrive. I am certain you can come up with your own additions to this incomplete list.

Respect for people is human, and it is systematic.

We can and should work consciously to support it.

The lenses are the core of our Lean Agile Visual Management program. We put them all into practice. Learn more about LA-VM.

First published Nov. 23, 2020, on Modus Institute.

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About The Author

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Jim Benson

Jim Benson is the creator and co-author (with Tonianne DeMaria) of the best seller Personal Kanban (Modus Cooperandi Press, 2011) winner of the Shingo Research and Publication Award, 2013. His other books include Why Limit WIP (Modus Cooperandi, 2014), Why Plans Fail (Modus Cooperandi, 2014), and Beyond Agile (Modus Cooperandi Press, 2013). He is a winner of the Shingo Award for Excellence in Lean Thinking, and the Brickell Key Award. Benson and DeMaria teach online at Modus Institute and consult regularly, helping clients in all verticals create working systems. Benson regularly keynotes conferences, focusing on making work rewarding and humane.