Our trust in the athletes we’ve grown to admire was certainly tested this past week. Any way we look at trust – reliability, faith, integrity, consistency, honesty, strength – is no longer applicable to some. Truth was found instead to be false, belief in playing by the rules was broken, and denial was the top priority.
After many years of fighting accusations that he had doped while winning seven straight Tour de France titles and successfully defeating cancer in the midst of his streak, Lance Armstrong finally came clean and admitted to cheating in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Notre Dame’s star linebacker and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o lost trust coming and going – he fell victim to a “catfishing” hoax through establishing an online relationship with a made-up internet identity, one he trusted was a real genuine person, but also misled the public with regard to some very basic details about his relationship after his “girlfriend” allegedly passed away because once he found out it was a hoax he was in too deep. This player with a clean-cut leader image now has a reputation as a liar in the court of public opinion.
(Disclaimer: I am clearly a severe Notre Dame fan and apologist, so I will keep my opinions of the Manti Te’o situation out of this post as much as possible.)
Lean has also had its fair share of trust issues throughout its history. In fact, in many organizations discussions of Lean bring out fear and defensiveness in employees and management for a couple reasons.
First, continuous improvement and process optimization tools like the Toyota Production System and Lean had first been used to get the most out of the current processes while maintaining fiscal responsibility and adaptability to changing market conditions. However, managers eventually caught on that Lean could be used to reduce headcount while still maintaining the same level of throughput. Lean was seen as a threat to jobs, so continuous improvement efforts started hitting brick walls.
Second, one of the great things about Lean is that it’s about changing for the better (ahh, Kaizen!) based on customer expectations, but many folks see change as also being a threat to jobs. Change threatens their control and their level of importance to the company, and their security is threatened as well.
Lean is a powerful suite of tools, and can be used for positive growth and expansion when applied in a positive manner. However, a lot must be done to establish reciprocal trust between operators and managers with Lean. It should not be used to reduce headcount, and any headcount reductions should not occur because of continuous improvement activities. Failing to do this means all trust in Lean is lost, and good luck trying to implement continuous improvement after that.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tU_bGFG8Xiw]I love this clip from the television show Sports Night. Three quotes about trust and management really stand out.
“If you feel that strongly about something, you have the responsibility to try and change my mind. Did you think I would fire you simply because you made a convincing argument?”
“If you’re dumb, surround yourself with smart people. And if you’re smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you.”
“You don’t know us very well. So if it’s hard trusting us at the beginning, maybe it will help to know that we trust you.”
In this day and age, it seems a lot harder to have trust in anyone or anything because the consequences appear to be diminishing for being untrustworthy. Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o are having public relations nightmares right now, but eventually their scandals will be replaced by the next public relations nightmares and their stories will become old news.
This is why genuine trust is so hard to come by, which makes it that much more important.
Lean cannot succeed unless there is mutual trust between management and operators – the operators must trust that application of Lean will not be used against them in the way of headcount reductions through optimized processes, and management must trust that operators will provide their best efforts to optimize their situations and reduce or solve problems.
When that trust is broken it is harder to repair and replace, multiple times over. By abiding by the rules set forth and doing what you said you would do, trust is established.
Joe Dager has a post about trust among members of virtual teams – check it out here.