Wednesday, November 27, 2002

So, Answer My Question! Part 2

In a comment posted to my entry of Monday, Hal Macomber stated the following.

One of the principal reasons for breakdowns of this type (unanswered questions) is ambiguity of who the question is directed to and by when it is expected to be answered. You might have a "standard service level" expectation that questions will be answered within 24 Hrs, however someone specifically needs to be on the hook for that by making a promise.

Here's my suggestion: set the standard that all questions (requests for answers) will be promised within 2 Hrs of asking the question. If the promise for an answer is not forthcoming then the questioner knows to follow-up immediately. This avoids the having other issues distract the questioner, as is likely the case with the 24 Hr standard. Further, this keeps the responsibility on the questioner for seeing that his/her question gets answered.

Hal, as usual, gets to the point of the matter quickly. Note how his suggestion for a standard aligns with Rule 2 from Spear and Bowen’s description of a lean system:
”Rule 2. Every customer-supplier connection must be direct, and there must be an unambiguous yes-or-no way to send requests and receive responses.” Spear, Steven & Bowen, H. Kent (1999) Decoding the DNA of the Toyota Production System. Harvard Business Review, September-October, pp. 97-106.
In a manufacturing setting, this is easy to see with a kanban card “requesting” more material, when needed and a circulating material handling person responsible to collect the cards and fill them on his/her next circuit, typically in a matter of one or two hours.

This sort of “request” can happen in a non-manufacturing arena as well, but only with the discipline of a request and a material handler. Otherwise, excess “inventory” of unanswered questions remain and learning does not happen.

So, can we do the following?

  • Make the request directly to an individual, not a mass posting?
  • Make a promise about response time?
  • Measure if we meet that response time?
  • Minimize the number of unanswered questions?
Thanks, Hal, for your challenging question.

Feel free to forward to a friend.
Email me

No comments: