What is the biggest and most persistent problem every dedicated problem-solver encounters while trying to solve a problem in any organization, whether the product delivered is hardware, software or a service?

Is it lack of some relevant information, the lack of good team members with good teaming skills, the lack of critical or creative thinking skills, or even the lack of good communication skills of those team members?

No, the biggest and most persistent problem is that instantaneous ‘silver bullet’ solution. That solution that can be ‘shot’ into the problem to ‘fix’ it by the manager who is eager to show a solution or, for that matter, by any junior-level manager in the organization, attempting to make a name for themselves, who has strapped on a six gun, practiced the quick draw techniques, loaded it with their silver bullet solution and ‘killed’ the problem with one deftly delivered shot.

The 2014 book, Lead With Respect, A Novel of Lean Practice suggests a better approach.

With a new CEO coming on board five years ago, he led them to recognize one simple fact –  that good products come from good processes that are developed by good people. Therefore, every manager’s primary task was to help develop good people. To help develop these good people, he required two things:

  1. Coach, mentor and observe every employee, at every level of the organization, to solve the problems they encounter
  2.  Every employee learns to understand their process, including the interactions with needed inputs and outputs, and then demonstrates that knowledge on a white board and/or problem-solving sheets prior to receiving approval to spend that first $1 on capital equipment.

To help managers succeed in this task of developing good people, the CEO gave each manager a seven-step daily Lead With Respect management model:

  1. Go and see
  2. Challenge
  3. Listen
  4. Teach problem solving
  5. Support
  6. Teamwork
  7. Learn

Five years into this process, is it working?

This multi-national automotive organization has doubled its size by buying out competitors with a good product but sagging profit margins and doubled its profit margins in the process.

The book centers around an interesting, very relatable and thought provoking scenario of the offer of a Vice President of the automotive company to coach the seven-step Lead With Respect model to the CEO of a software development company, which has just failed to meet its first six-month milestones, miserably.

This 2014 book, Lead With Respect, a Novel of Lean Practice, was authored by Michael Ball’e & Freddy Ball’e, Lean Enterprise Institute. The Foreword is by Dr. Jim Womack author of Gemba Walks, The Machine That Changed The World, plus many more.