LEI founder Jim Womack shared a powerful kickoff to this year’s transformation summit on the topic of how to be a good and lean employer. He started his talk citing his Southern roots as “Jimmy from Little Rock, Arkansas.”
He then shared the story of a recent gemba walk, where he met a line worker who told him: “I have been here 14 years and have been laid off 14 times.” He continued to describe another recent visit in which he learned that 100 percent of the people on the line have a second job to make ends meet, including the supervisor.
And so he posed the key challenge of becoming a better employer: “You have to figure out how to pay these people. Instead of thinking about how not to pay them.”
This means that CEOs are going to have change their whole attitude about management. They must start to think deeply about how to transform the way they are working to create more value. Quite simply, companies can be better by taking a lean approach: “How can we be better employers? Engage. Work together with mutual respect to create more value with less waste….Good things happen when you engage your employee and support them.
Mentioning the intriguing work that Toyota is doing right now in this area, he highlighted how important it is to improve through the work itself. “You can start a conversation. And it just can’t be nice. Avoid naivete….You can’t just say you are going to be nice and give a hug—you have to create value…You have to be more than nice and you have to be more than nice to work for. You have to create value.”
You can read a fuller elaboration of his argument in this article published today in Planet Lean.