Respecting every individual is the foundation for building business success

Subikash Roy

The Difference between "4M" Thinking and "MAN + 3M" Thinking

Today’s businesses have become extremely complex. Frequently changing technologies, reduced product life cycles and fierce market competition has put many businesses under tremendous pressure to survive. Even businesses which have been established over decades are under severe threat of becoming irrelevant.

Management are often busy preparing unique strategies using the best tools, techniques and software; only to find at the end of the day that the execution has failed them. It has not delivered the desired outcomes.

Why does this happen? The simple reason is that most strategies clearly ignore the human intervention factor. Leaders forget that at every level, work is performed either directly or indirectly by humans. Leaders often talk about 4M resources - Man, Machine, Material and Method. What does it really mean to you? Does it not give you a sense that Man is also a commodity along with other resources? To me it definitely sounds that way. Therefore, in my opinion, instead of 4M we should be saying "Man + 3M".

When humans are treated as extension of other resources, it is a sign that your strategies are being designed to fail. Either there is no purpose, or the purpose is not communicated and understood. When this happens, there is no alignment of commitment to achieve a common goal. When the company goal is not communicated and understood, every department and every employee works to achieve his/her own goals, thus throwing the entire enterprise out of sync. The key to achieving business success is to build a solid foundation with people. And the starting point in my opinion, is Respect Every Individual in the company.

What is the Deeper Meaning of "Respect Every Individual"?

It isn’t enough to tell people "I trust you". It really is nothing more than a motherhood statement. We encounter problems at every moment across our business value chain. Respecting people means understanding the real nature of their problem along with them; to understand what is causing the problem, and thus challenge the employee to come out with solutions by triggering with probing questions.

Figure 1:The Deeper Meaning of "Respect Every Individual"

Why is this respect for individuals? Because every human seeks recognition and his importance in the business process must be clearly acknowledged through actions by the Management.

By acknowledging his importance in the business value chain, you assume that the employee is capable and thus challenge him to think more deeply and come out with solutions. Wherever it is felt that handholding is required he must be supported and encouraged. It is like supporting a small child to walk when he is unstable. If the parent does not encourage and support the child at the first fall, then the child may never learn to walk on his own. Therefore, it must be focus of the managements to create systemic thinkers and powerful problem solvers of their people. Figure-1 illustrates the deeper meaning of "Respect Every Individual".

What Do Most Management Overlook?

Many leaders are very anxious and irritated when problems occur and try to give solutions by themselves. If you are looking for long term success of your businesses, leaders must learn is to allow people to make calibrated mistakes. When an employee has made a mistake the leader must have the patience to listen empathetically and understand how he is approaching the problem; it is at this point that the employee needs the leader’s support. The leader must be able to coach and mentor him to arrive at an appropriate solution by probing and directing him to think systemically. This challenges the employee and he becomes a powerful problem solver.

Transparent and continuous communication from and to management is very important to understand what is really happening in the organization. For this the top management efforts are very important so that there is no trust deficit between people. This happens when a common organization goal is clearly established, communicated and understood. It is imperative that the management at all levels engage people positively towards the attainment of the common goal and seek to continuous monitor and steer course towards its attainment.

Developing People through the Lean Mind-set?

Most managements today are implementing lean but still have the batching mind-set. While they may be able to see the physical value streams in their manufacturing processes, they are unable to visualise abstract processes in value stream terms. Therefore, even today employees are evaluated in quarterly, half yearly or yearly modes; this is clearly a batching mind-set. This increases the period of the PDCA cycle of the employee’s development. Sometimes this PDCA cycle may be so large as to affect your business adversely.

So currently, there is no structured levelled approach to people development and thus no clear picture of relationship between individual goals and career. Continuous conversations with employees are still very rare and evaluations of improvements and solutions on everyday situations are still a far-fetched dream in many companies. Therefore, it is very important that the concept of people development must become a clear business priority.

Building the Foundation for Your Business

The foundation of every organization is its core values and beliefs; the vision and purpose for which the business existed. The caretakers of the foundation are the people who work for the organizations. However, on the way during the quest to make profits many managements either give up or forget these very guiding principles on which the businesses were built. Over time this weakens the internal alignment of the enterprise and may also threaten business survival.

Organizations are built with people. It is important that we understand the contribution of every individual in the organization; without any hierarchy or boundaries. Respecting every individual will create ownership and sense of belongingness that you will have never experienced before. People in these organizations just don’t come to perform their jobs; they are part of the human pyramid that synchronizes the business growth with their capabilities. There is amazing alignment in the entire enterprise and problems are surfaced and solved with incredible alacrity. This moves the entire Enterprise Value Stream towards astoundingly sustained growth and there is no looking back.