Questions a Lean Manager Should Ask EmployeesLeadership begins with asking the right questions. Your job as a Lean manager is to collect data gathered through observation, study, conversation, and more, analyze it, discover efficiencies, and then convey your vision for improvement to key persons.

You cannot have an accurate picture of your business’s prospects if you do not ask the right questions.

Here are several questions I recommend Lean managers ask. If you do not know the answer to any or all of these questions, spend time today gathering that information.

Questions to Ask Manufacturing Floor Employees

The employees who operate your equipment and create your products are often closest to efficiencies that could help you improve production. If you do not actively solicit their assistance, you could miss opportunities to improve.

Ask these questions when you visit your shop floor:

  • When you see an opportunity for more efficiency in your job, who do you talk to?
  • Do you know how to contact me to share information that could help us manufacture our products more efficiently?
  • Do you have any concerns about how your job is structured?
  • What improvements would you make to the equipment you operate, if you could?

Questions to Ask Customer Service Representatives

The people are in direct contact with your customers serve collectively as the face and voice of your brand. Their performance affects your sales, your Net Promoter Score, shrink numbers in retail locations, your reputation, your media presence, and much more. There are few things more important than listening to their feedback and enriching their jobs to reduce stress, increase empowerment, and create powerfully positive customer experience.

Ask these questions:

  • In what situations do you find yourself saying, “Yes, we are wrong and our policy is bad, but I cannot change it?”
  • What about our products or policies frustrates customers but has not changed?
  • Do you feel that you have enough ways to reward good customers?
  • Are there any customers we should consider “firing” because we consistently lose money on every interaction with them?
  • How do you feel about the way that we use our Net Promoter Score to determine how effectively your department has performed?

Questions to Ask Supervisors

Middle management in a Lean organization is uniquely challenging. Supervisors are pressured to continuously improve and meet or exceed goals, yet they may not have the decision-making power to make changes in order to do so.

Listen to your supervisors and help them help you by asking these questions:

  • Do you feel that you have adequate tools to address performance problems on your team?
  • Are there any goals assigned to you that you feel are unrealistic–and if so, what is holding us back from meeting those numbers?
  • What could we improve about the process by which we attract and hire talented people?
  • Do you feel that you are receiving enough feedback from me?
  • Do you feel empowered to give me both positive and negative feedback?
  • If you could change one thing about your department, what would it be?

A Lean Manager Collects and Analyzes Answers

Now it’s up to you to take the answers you received, remove emotion, and do something with them. This is the only way a Lean manager can truly improve efficiencies and build rapport.

What do you do to build a Lean manager?