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

Popular posts from this blog

The Kaizen Checklist is here!

Do you want to get better results from your Kaizen programme? Improve your business results quickly with my downloadable kit (including guidebook, workbook and templates) for only $39. Are you looking for a sustainable way to identify and implement improvements across your business? Practical improvement strategies The Kaizen Checklist is a downloadable kit that you can use with your management team to develop a system that suits your business and allow you to quickly implement Kaizen effectively at your place of work. This works great if you use it as the centre piece of your own internal workshop. The kit includes a 40 page guidebook, a workbook, four appendices and three templates. All parts of this kit are designed to get you up and running as fast as possible. If you are unfamiliar with Kaizen, let me stress that this is a simple improvement philosophy that is so much more than just  ‘a Japanese word for continuous improvement’. I’ll cover what it rea

Take the pressure off! Using the Y-curve with your Kaizen improvements

Do you feel under pressure when you have to make changes happen in your business? It can be scary when we try something that we have never done before. I remember thinking to myself 'how on Earth am I going to figure this out?' on many occasions. I think the last time was a few weeks ago! Years on from becoming reasonable at the art of change I am still faced with the same dilemma. It is scary and it is clear to me why so many people shy away from making change happen. It is natural to get stuck in this oscillation. On one hand you need to make change happen; the business needs the improvement benefits. On the other hand you don't want to screw up... Last week I was talking to a young engineer that I am mentoring. He was paralysed. Changes were not happening at all. There was always some early promise with his projects and then, as completion (and judgement day) loomed, progress would evaporate. The engineer asked me for my views on this  during a recent conversati

Kamishibai Boards

Available to purchase here. 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 g