Skip to main content

Finding The Right CI Question To Ask

Central to Continuous Improvement is the PDCA (Plan - Do - Check - Act) cycle. I talk about this a lot as I believe it is rare for every improvement that we attempt to work perfectly the first time. One part of using this approach effectively is the ability to modify your questions when you aren't getting the answers that you need.

For example, the other week I was sitting in a meeting with a client's member of staff and I was trying to find out how to get their ERP system to behave in a certain way. They certainly had the answers, but because I come from an operational background (and they were IT) I had to try multiple attempts to find the middle ground where we both were clear about the conversation and where the right question could find the right answer.


If you have seen the film 'I Robot' with Will Smith you may well recall this in action during various scenes. Will Smith's character talks to a hologramatic recording, trying to find out the missing pieces of the puzzle he has been left to solve. Until Will's character has the right question the limited responses of the recording cannot furnish him with any more information. The right question needed to be presented in order to get the right answer.

Many continuous improvement projects suffer from this as well. We ask questions to others in the business and get a straight 'no' in return. We know that there is merit in the idea and it is up to us whether we try again with our question(s). With a little bit of diplomacy and a bit more understanding of where the other person is coming from, we can often find a slightly different question that can provide us with a better answer.

If you find that your continuous improvement projects don't get off the ground because of someone blocking the idea then perhaps it is time to increase your flexibility and ask different questions. I have experienced this many times personally, as have my clients, where a little bit of persistence to better understand the other person combined with different questions have eventually gotten me to the answer that I needed.

Don't give up, try a different question.



Giles Johnston
...fixing MRP systems and re-engineering business processes

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Kamishibai Boards

Some tools are incredibly simple to use, and also deliver some amazing results. Kamishibai boards are a great example and are superb when you want some visual control over routine tasks. By the way Kamishibai is pronounced "come-e-she-bye" in case you were wondering!
As simple as you could want it, a Kamishibai board is a T-card system that has red cards glued to green
cards (so that each T-card has a red side and a green side). The red cards are for the incomplete tasks, where as the green cards symbolise that the work has been done. See the photo below of a board in use.
On the red side of the card you write the name of the task that needs to be completed, and if appropriate you can include details of how the task is to be completed. This is not expected to replace standard operating procedures, but can be a good opportunity for an aide memoire.
The boards can be organised for daily, weekly and even monthly cycles. They are great as part of a 5S implementation (the Susta…

Do You Put Enough Effort Into Changing How Your Business Works?

If you're reading this blog post it is a fair guess that you are looking to improve how your business works. So, what do you think about the question I have posed as the title of this article?
The reality is that if you could make a change happen with the same amount of effort that you current expend in your business changes would be happening left, right and centre. If you want to make a change stick in your business you need to increase your levels of effort temporarily. Without this increase in effort it is unlikely that the change you want will take place and sustain.
I recall when I worked as a Production Manager and the OTIF (On Time In Full) performance of our business was certainly not where it needed to be. For years the business had struggled to raise its level of performance; no additional effort had been expended. I planned out sixteen small improvement projects to address this and I got started with the changes. It was hard work at times and the work was on top of my…

Seeing the Improvement Wood for the Chaos Trees!

How are you feeling about your business the moment?

Are you feeling frustrated and irritated by the apparent lack of progress being made with your improvements?

If you answer ‘yes’ to this second question, don’t worry, you are not alone!

We all feel this way at times and the reason I am writing this article is that if you feel this way right now then I want to reassure you that there is a simple way to get out of this situation. I have been in this situation many times in both my operational life and as a consultant. It is normal and taking a deep breath and stepping back from the noise of the day-to-day is essential.

Let me take you through the three quick steps of Stopping, Assessing and Acting.


Take stock of where you are right now

In order for us to step back and try and see some of the ‘improvement wood’ as I refer to in the title of this article we need to have a simple question to focus our attention. A question I recommend that you ask is:

“Do our current processes suit the need…