My Lean mentors often talk about “leading with questions.” Kim Barnas and ThedaCare use this approach in different ways, including “stat sheets,” which are basically checklists (or standardized work) full of questions for leaders to use in the workplace. See her outstanding book Beyond Heroes: A Lean Management System for Healthcare.
What kinds of questions should we ask? The best questions are open ended. They can't be answered with a simple yes or no answer. Questions should prompt thinking and it's a skill to be developed through practice.
“What is the problem we are trying to solve?” is a good open-ended question.
Some questions are really questions.
When my wife and I were first married, I had a bad bachelor habit of leaving dirty socks in the middle of the floor, as recently staged here:
(She lets me use this example.)
She would ask a question that was really a request disguised as a question:
“Honey, why did you leave your socks in the middle of the floor?”
She wasn't looking for root cause analysis. :-)
Her question was a polite request, really saying, “Would you please pick up your socks and not do that again in the future?”
I've gotten better about this.
In the workplace, we have to be careful about directives that are disguised as questions.
These might include:
“Why don't you move that bench over there?”
Um, because I don't want to. Or, because I resent you telling me what to do.
“Why did Bubba screw up that specimen?”
That's blaming disguised as a question. That's not a good way to get to a root cause.
“Don't you think we should re-state the background on that A3?”
I think if you're doing to make a declarative statement, such as “I think the background section of that A3 isn't very clear,” I think you should just do that rather than disguising it as a question. Even if we should limit the number of times that we give solutions to people, maybe it's more respectful to be direct rather than asking fake questions?
What other non-question questions do you hear? Are there any you're guilty of saying yourself? Have you worked to help break this habit, either individually or as a team? Leave a comment below.
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