When supply chain professionals implement a new, faster process or procedure, they need to take time to plan great questions — high-gain questions — before moving forward.
Too many questions won't help, but asking consultative, or high-gain, questions fosters progress. By planning high-gain questions in advance, you garner information and buy-in for winning results.
Many people are “tell-assertive.” They are direct, to the point, with an eye for action. Others are “ask-assertive.” They much prefer to ask questions rather than tell people what they think. Which are you? Are you getting the results you want?
Try this exercise at your next meeting. Do not make any statements. Only ask questions. If the exercise is uncomfortable, you may be driving rather coordinating the process. The flip side of the exercise requires only making statements during the next meeting. If you squirm in the seat when you can't ask questions, maybe you need to learn to share your knowledge more frequently.
For example, recently I read the novel House Rules , a mystery by Jodie Picoult. A teenager with Asperger's syndrome plays a big role. Asperger's is a high functioning form of autism that affects more and more families today. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that affects a person's ability to socialize and communicate effectively with others.”
Now this not an article about Asperger's, but repeatedly, throughout the book, the characters did not ask the right questions. So they didn't get the right answers.
Here are some scenarios where high-gain questions come into play:
The scheduling scenario
You decide, as the Manufacturing Manager, that you want to change the Master Schedule. If you don't consult with the team when you change the MRP system, the new schedule may require excessive resources, making matters worse than better. Planning with the team and cross functional departments for parts, components, and other resources can prevent disaster. Ask the right questions to sell your idea and assure a good pilot program before full implementation. Your questions need to be thought-provoking to gain data to predict the outcome.
The job-seeker scenario
You interview with a team of engineers who may become your colleagues. Do not be afraid to ask, “Will I get your vote to be hired?” The team member says, “I'm not going to be the one to decide.” Your response might be, “I'd bet your input will be valuable. Is there anything we need to discuss to assure I'm the person for this job?” Risky, yes? High gain, you bet. You want to overcome any objections.
Expert sales professionals know how to discern where the pain in the customer's organization is. You need to do the same. When you want to persuade, you are in sales. Asking how you can solve the pain or challenge helps you finalize your sale. Call it solution or consultative selling. You need to ask quality or high-gain questions. Sales people plan questions in advance to gain high-quality answers. Gather the data before making the sale.
What issues are causing your heartburn or high blood pressure? By facing the issues directly, but asking high-gain questions, you are likely to gain traction or make the “sale.” Write the questions in advance. Predict what the other party will ask you and be prepared to persuade through quality questions.
What are some of your high-gain questions? My favorite is, “How can I help you?”