Improve your process with these two questions

July 7, 2008


In “The Leader’s Handbook,” Peter Scholtes suggests asking internal and external customers two questions:

What are you getting that you don’t need?

What do you need that you aren’t getting?

Several years ago, I asked similar questions of team members on an e-learning project that I managed. One of the things that the team clearly did not want was a detailed work breakdown report. Instead, they wanted an individualized report that indicated how much time each team member was allowed for each task in the upcoming week. As a result, I quit wasting time on reports that were not being read, and instead focused on a more useful tool that helped the team budget time spent on their tasks.

Try it yourself. Pick any ID or other process you are working on this week or, better yet, today! Now figure out who the customer is. Customers can be the team member that you hand your part of the process off to (such as when you hand a storyboard off to a programmer) or the final users of the product. They might be your manager, or your direct report. Whoever it is, ask them Sholtes’ two questions.

If you ask sincerely, you may be surprised at just how readily an answer comes. The hard part is to actually do something about it.

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