Friday, June 12, 2020

Lean Quote: It is Better to Know Some of the Questions Than All of the Answers

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.  — James Thurber

Ability of leaders to ask the right questions is critical to the success of continuous improvement. The type of questions will determine the quality of process improvements. If leaders do not know what to look for, teams would get the message that they can get away with whatever is possible.

All management should learn to ask these three simple questions:
       1) What is the process?
       2) How can you tell it is working?
       3) What are you doing to improve it (if it is working)?

Nothing sustains itself, certainly not Lean manufacturing or Lean management. So, establish and stick to a routine including regular visits to the Gemba, check the status of visual controls, follow-up on daily accountability assignments, and ask the three simple questions everywhere. Lean management is, as much as anything, a way of thinking.

Guide by asking questions, not by telling grown up people what to do. People generally know the right answers if they have the opportunity to produce them.

When an employee brings you a problem to solve, ask, "what do you think you should do to solve this problem?" Or, ask, "what action steps do you recommend?" Employees can demonstrate what they know and grow in the process.


If you don't ask the right questions, you don't get the right answers. A question asked in the right way often points to its own answer.


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