Planet Lean: What is your opinion of Michael Ballé's latest novel, Lead With Respect, compared to his previous work?
Marcus Chao:Lead With Respect addresses the core of a lean transformation, organizational culture. As Michael evolves, as a lean thinker and a writer, the subjects of his books follow: The Gold Mine covered lean manufacturing, The Lean Manager discussed lean management, while Lead With Respect tackles lean leadership and lean culture. In China, we would say that Sensei Ballé's kungfu is getting more advanced.
PL: You are in the process of translating the book in Chinese - what is the key takeaway for Chinese readers, in your opinion?
MC: In Chinese business culture, the higher the level of leadership, the smarter the leader is. With this in mind, the top leader will surely have answers to all kind of questions. I hope the book will show Chinese readers that it is ok to be a boss with no answers and that the front line workers are the actual subject experts when it comes to problem solving. As the Chinese proverb goes, “Being humble and respect others are true characters of a noble person.”
PL: What makes this book worth reading for today's lean practitioner?
MC: We always talk about lean leadership and lean culture, but they are often abstract concepts in our minds, difficult to fully grasp. Lead With Respect tells the story of a CEO’s transformation from a traditional manager to a lean leader; in the book, the leadership change results in a cultural shift, and the organization abandons finger pointing to embrace team work in facing problems.
PL: Why do you think Michael decided to set the story in a software company?
MC: I know Michael has always been a firm believer in the fact that lean thinking could be applied to both manufacturing and service. I am very pleased to be able share Lead With Respect with many Chinese software companies to prove to them that lean thinking applies to codes just as much as it does to production lines.