Blog posts on respect for people

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  • Customer Focus at Ritz Carlton and Home Depot

    Ritz-Carlton’s motto is “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” And they actually turn those words into reality. They are not platitudes with no action. The system is guided toward achieving that vision.

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  • How to Improve

    Good management systems are about seeking systemic adoption of the most effective solutions.

    Here is a simple example. Years ago, my boss was frustrated because an award was sent to the Director’s office to be signed and the awardee’s name was spelled wrong (the third time an awardee’s name had been spelled wrong in a short period). After the first attempts my boss suggested these be checked and double checked… Which they already were but…

    I was assisting with efforts to adopt TQM and the time and when she told me the problem and I asked if the names were in the automated spell checker? They were not. I suggested we add them and use the system (automatic spell checking) designed to check for incorrect spelling to do the job. Shift from first looking to blame the worker to first seeing if there is way to improve the system is a simple but very helpful change to make.

    This example is simple but it points to a nearly universal truth: if an improvement amounts to telling people to do their job better (pay attention more, don’t be careless, some useless slogan…) that is not likely to be as effective as improving the process.

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  • Why Extrinsic Motivation Fails

    Lean thinkers understand this idea as respect for people. Dr. Deming talked about joy in work.Douglas McGregor talked about theory x and theory y thinking. All of these perspectives incorporate an understanding of workplace systems and human psychology. Extrinsic motivation is easy but not effective. It is really just abdicating management and using extrinsic motivation in place of management. The alternative requires managers to actually manage. This is challenging but the correct choice to make.

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  • Poor Service – Industry Standard?

    I find it very frustrating how poor the service is most everywhere these days. Have you shopped in a Trader Joe’s? The contrast is amazing. I am used to most employees, on the phone, or in person, seeing the customer as a bother.  At Trader Joe’s, in stark contrast, the staff always seems happy to have customers. Which seems like a good indication that management is doing a number of things right.

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  • Performance Appraisals – Is Good Execution the Solution?

    Good execution of performance appraisal is not the solution. More people are realizing that improving how performance appraisal are done is an attempt to do the wrong thing better. If you insist on doing the wrong thing, I suppose you might as well do it better but how about just not doing the wrong thing at all? What should be done? See: Performance Without Appraisal and read chapter 9 of The Leader’s Handbook.

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  • Encourage Improvement Action by Everyone

    Centralizing decision making is not an effective way to manage organizations. Organizations need to encourage improvement by everybody in the organization. We need to create a system where that is encouraged and supported.


    Without an understanding of systems and interactions sometimes changes are made without an understanding of the consequences those changes. The beer game is a good example of one way this can cause problems (people don’t always understand all the consequences of their actions). To be clear I agree with setting up systems that allow people to make improvements in the workplace. Just be cautious to avoid tampering.

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  • Hiring the Right People

    The job market is an inefficient market. There are many reasons for this including relying on specification (this job requires a BS in Computer Science – no Bill Gates you don’t meet the spec) instead of understanding the system. Insisting on managing by the numbers even when the most important figures are unknown and maybe unknowable. Using HR to find the right person to work in a process they don’t understand (which reinforces the desire to focus on specifications instead of a more nuanced approach). The inflexibility of companies: so if a great person wants to work 32 hours a week – too bad we can’t hire them. And on and on.


    it seems to me that the visible waste (time and money spent on the hiring process) is seen as the only waste and the much more difficult to see waste of hiring the wrong people is ignored.

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  • Curious, Joyful, Happy Kids Grow Up: Unfortunately

    I must admit I find the wonder kids have amazingly refreshing. When I was a kid I just took it for granted. Now, unfortunately surrounded by way too many incurious, blasé, dreary adults I realize the kids really have a much better idea how to live than we adults do.

    Have some fun. Have some fun with a cardboard box and a stick. Or a plastic dinosaur and a small firetruck. Or just reading a book, for the 56th time this year, about how some cat goes to the store.

    Meanwhile I think an alien could appear on the subway and most of my fellow passengers would only be concerned if it was taking up too much space or blocked their exit, and if not, maybe not even notice it.


    Just watching the faces of adults and kids is amazing. Adults, by and large show no joy. A kid's face will show more joy when they see their Mom for the 8th time today than an adult will in the entire month. I just have to believe that is not a good sign.

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  • Compensation and Executive Pay at Whole Foods (2007)

    the average large corporation in the United States distributes 75% of their total stock options to only 5 top executives with the remaining 25% going to everyone else in the company (actually most of the remaining 25% goes to the next level of executives below the top 5). At Whole Foods, the exact opposite is true: the top 16 executives have received 7% of all the options granted while the other 93% of the options have been distributed throughout the entire company with all Team Members eligible for a grant after 6,000 hours of service to the company.

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  • Motivating Employees

    When a manger views the problem as one of motivating workers that puts the problem within the worker. They need to be changed. That is the wrong strategy, most of the time. People want to do a good job; the job of a manager is to remove the de-motivation within the system.

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  • Stop Demotivating Me!

    ...What should a manager do? Eliminate the de-motivators. Provide coaching (building the capacity or employees and the organization). And manage a system to allow people to take pride in what they do. Holding pizza parties, pep talks, displaying posters and annual performance reviews are not what is needed. But those actions are really easy so that is what some people do – instead of what is needed. How sad.

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  • Don’t Empower

    Using the term, "empower", implies that it one person empowers another person. This is not the correct view. Instead we each play a role within a system. Yes there are constraints on your actions based on the role you are playing. Does a security guard empower the CEO to enter the building?

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  • Getting and Keeping Great Employees

    I think the main thing to do is to respect employees (and have that visible in the management decisions made in the organization). Stopping the demotivation would be a big step for many organizations. And to manage your organization with the understanding that the organization’s purpose should be to benefit the various stakeholders (shareholders, customer… and employees).      

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  • Bad Management Results in Layoffs

    Layoffs are a failure of management.  If the company has not been executing a long term strategy to respect people and manage the system to continually improve, manage for the long term, working with suppliers... it might be they have created an impossibly failed organization that cannot succeed in its current form.  And so yes it might be possible that layoffs are required.


    At exactly what point some layoffs are necessary and how much other stakeholders are squeezed to avoid layoffs is not simple to answer (just as employees are squeezed to avoid suffering by other stakeholders).  I think to have any pretense of good management systems while resorting to layoffs management must say what specific failures lead to the situation and what has been done to fix the system so such failures will not re-occur.  Those explanations should seem to be among the best applications of 5 why, root cause analysis, systems thinking, planning... that you have seen.  Layoffs should be seen as about the most compelling evidence of failed management.  Therefore explanations attempting to justify the layoffs have as high a barrier to overcome as any proposed improvement to the organization/system.

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  • Continuous, Constructive Feedback

    The correct strategy, communicate and coach continually. Have defined process that are clear to everyone. Have clear expectations for what people are suppose to do and have methods to make problems visible so they can be addressed...

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