Lean Principle #6 – Respect People

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Principle number 6 of the 7 key principles of lean software development is Respect People.

It’s yet another principle that should really be common sense.  But unfortunately too many people sometimes forget this basic human courtesy, especially in the workplace.  And all too often it’s the most senior people that are the worst offenders.

Personally I think it’s important to treat everyone with the same respect, whatever their job.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re the CEO, a developer, project manager, the receptionist or the cleaner, respect everyone equally.

So, what does this actually mean in practice?

First of all, it means responding to people promptly, listening attentively, hearing their opinions and not dismissing them even when they are different to your own.  It means encouraging people to have their say.  Having empathy for their point of view and trying to see things from their perspective.

But, of course, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should always agree with them!  That would be a very unhealthy situation.  So one of the arts of respecting people is learning how to be assertive and disagree with a point of view, without sounding aggressive or threatening or just plain argumentative.

Another important part of respecting people is giving people the responsibility to make decisions about their work.  To achieve this, it’s important to build knowledge and develop people who can think for themselves.  People who can think for themselves and  are experts in their area often need to be empowered to feel respected.

But this in itself is a tricky area for many managers.  How do you empower people enough, without losing control of the outcome?

One way is to make sure that the empowered person still communicates about their intended approach, and why they think it’s the best approach.  Then there is a chance to discuss pros and cons and understand why the person wants to take that particular decision.  Questions can be asked to challenge whether or not someone has thought something all the way through, but can be asked in such a way to establish and maybe extend their own thinking, not to take over the solution or take the decision away from them, leaving them feeling disempowered and not in control.

Empowerment is particularly important with agile development methods.  I wrote about this in ‘Agile teams must be empowered‘ – one of the 10 key principles of agile software development.

I think sometimes in the workplace this is easier said than done, which is why it isn’t really just about common sense.  Nevertheless, I think this principle is possibly one of the most important of all.  Because the only way to be respected yourself, is to first respect others.


7 Key Principles of Lean Software Development:

1. Eliminate Waste
2. Build Quality In
3. Create Knowledge
4. Defer Commitment
5. Deliver Fast
6. Respect People
7. Optimise The Whole