Today’s topic on the ABC’s of Engineering Your Business is a familiar theme – Questions.
If you’ve been around the podcast for any length of time you’ve seen this pop up in the areas of curiosity, problem solving, the 5 Why’s and more.
But questions are truly one of the unsung heroes of the business world. Like so many other tools we discuss, it doesn’t cost anything to ask more and better questions.
And in asking those questions, with a an end goal of learning and collaborating to a common goal, you find that you’re able to make better decisions, save time, money, empower your people, and send yourself down a better track.
The first step is asking more questions. Not being OK with answers given you but being an investigator, digging deeper and turning over the rocks.
In doing this, though, let me add a word of caution. Do this with respect and humility. Please.
I’ve been around plenty of people who love to ask questions of others in a way that is belittling and condescending. Doing this doesn’t help anyone and will actually shut off communication and potential.
Instead, if we’re willing to ask from a place of genuinely valuing the person we’re talking to and genuinely wanting to listen and learn from their answers, we can go a long way to strengthening our teams and plugging gaps in our businesses.
Along with asking more questions comes asking better questions. This parts takes a little more work. One way to start is just by being curious and asking follow-up questions. Especially if you can step outside what you already know and ask what an outsider might ask. Sometimes we don’t ask good questions because we’ve already answered them in our own head, but we can easily miss something that can be our downfall.
Create a culture where it is common to ask more and better questions and where people don’t have to feel defensive being questioned. If the questions come from a place of caring and curiosity, they will naturally come off in a way that doesn’t create a defensive response. Not so if they come from a place of pride or position.
What keys do you have to foster this kind of a culture? I’d love to hear them. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, consider telling a fellow entrepreneur or business leader about it. I appreciate you and would love to know any future topics you’d like me to cover or how I can help you and your business. Email me at email@example.com
What Is a Tip For Improving Your Processes?
As we mentioned back in episode 3, just about everything we do is a process. You could take any aspect of your day and break it down into steps that you might create a work flow for… you know, if you really wanted to do something like that.
At your organization, no doubt… hopefully… you have different standard operating procedures or instructions for different items that happen to make your company work.
But how do you know if they are robust enough? How can you tell if they need some improving or tightening up.
There are plenty of things you could do, but I want to suggest one for simplicity.
Ask questions. Act like an outsider, someone new. Or better yet, take someone new or from a totally different department and have them try to walk through one of your organization’s procedures and ask their own questions.
I’ve found that, often, we maybe aren’t communicating as much as we thought (leaving communication gaps) because we are too close to a process.
Our brains may be filling in those gaps for us, answering questions that we didn’t even ask verbally, and allowing us to get to the right destination.
But when someone new is dropped in there (or we’re able to try to look from a new perspective), we can unearth some potentials for miscommunication, defective parts, letting customers down, and more.
So, here is your challenge for today.
Find a written (or maybe even a verbal) process.
Then, for each step, ask as many questions as you can come up with. EVEN IF YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWERS.
Step 1. Open the HPE file, fill out lines 1-3 and submit it to the sales department
– What is HPE?
– Where can I find this HPE file?
– Does everyone have access to it or could there be a problem for some?
– Is the file editable?
– Should I save a copy or change the actual file?
– Who should I contact if I have questions?
– How should I submit it to sales? Email, paper, fax, carrier pigeon (I hear those are making a comeback)
– Who specifically in sales should get it?
You get the picture. I’ve found this exercise to be really eye-opening when I’ve done it with procedures on manufacturing lines where I’ve worked. And it has always opened up the potential for a communication gap and given us an opportunity to close that gap before it leads to something bad.
So, good luck with your quest. If you find that you’re not coming up with many questions, grab someone new and have them go through it. I think you’ll find their input invaluable.
If you’ve been enjoying the podcast, I’d love it if you’d leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts at shawnwashburn.com/apple Thanks for listening to today’s episode.