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perspective
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Go See, Ask Questions, Show Respect

Go See

Leader Standard Work

Leaders are most effective when they spend time with their teams, understanding the Work and asking questions. Questions not to interrogate, but for understanding, using the technique of ‘humble inquiry. Understanding if the work is completed as designed.

Let’s unpack the preceding activity and the follow-up questions.

When you ask the question “Is the Work completed as designed” we take it for granted that there is a design. Have you got a design for how your business does its Work? Can you describe it? Does it involve processes and standards and communication pathways with elevation, escalation, and cascading? Is the physical process defined and also the information processes? Is your process to improve the processes and the work described?

If there is a described design, the Work will be easy to follow, easy to hand over, easy to train for, and easy to check. Successful companies that lead their industry have a described design, some have published booklets, best practice pictures or descriptors, or posters to explain it. Some of you will say that your type of Work cannot be defined – as W Edwards Deming said: “All work is process, and every process can be improved”.

Next are the follow-up questions. If the Work cannot be done as designed, can the team articulate the barriers, are they empowered and skilled to resolve these, and have they found a listening ear when they elevated or escalated the issue? Has the Work been designed with poor or broken processes, and are our tools adequate for the Work? I still remember the CEO of a major international bank telling me that after a day spent at Work, she found her company’s systems “debilitating”.

How does the technique of Humble Inquiry fit into this? You don’t have to read the book by Edgar and Peter Schein (Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling) to understand its message, the title tells it all. You ask questions to understand, at the place of Work, without an agenda or judgement.

When I recently joined visiting Ballance Agri-Nutrients leaders Daryl and Matt on a ‘go-see’ walk with local Whangarei leaders Damon and Dion for their annual Ballance Production System health check, I was very pleased to see the mantra of ‘go see for yourself, ask questions to understand, and be respectful to the people in practice. Their humble inquiry questions, combined with the growth mindset of the local leaders, resulted in improvement priorities to better meet the expectations of all stakeholders of the organisation in the Northland region.

Do you ever check if the Work is completed as designed? And if you do, do you ask questions to understand, or do you ‘interrogate’ until you get the answers you want? Do you force commitment, or do you create the environment for intrinsic motivation to flow?

If you don’t “Go See, Ask Questions, Show Respect” I’d hate for you to be up against the crowd in the photo, because I can predict the outcome: you’ll lose.

About the author: Geerten Lengkeek is the Managing Director of Productivity People