Questions to help sustain a quality management program

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Rey A. H. Elbo

In The Workplace

We implemented all quality management programs two years ago, but it appears that nothing has happened. Everyone seems afflicted with the dreaded disease called ningas kugon (excited at first, followed by sluggishness). Therefore, what are the best approaches to sustain these programs? — Loose Ball.

Sometimes, we have distorted ideas about love. Let me explain. One night, a young husband decided to show his equally young wife how much he loved her. After a hearty dinner meticulously prepared by his wife, he began to recite romantic poetry, telling her how he would climb high mountains to be near her, swim wide oceans, cross deserts in the burning heat of the day, and even sit at her window and sing love songs to her under the moonlight.

After listening to him go on for some time about his immense love he had, she ended the conversation with a profound question: “But, will you wash the dishes for me?”

Love and work are basically the same. You can give all the inspirational messages to your people to help motivate them, but if you don’t share the burden, it would be very difficult for both of you to move forward.

It is human nature for people to be reluctant to offer the right answers, when something goes wrong or when a program is not moving according to schedule. At times, the questions you ask your people and to yourself will largely dictate the accuracy of the answers. Remember, asking questions are better than coming to unfounded conclusions.

If you do just that, there will be unpleasant repercussions that may include soured work relations, if not evasive answers, especially if the workers think that an honest answer may not be in their best interests. If this happens, a routine follow-up can turn into a confusing situation, if questions are not carefully studied and phrased.

Of course, learning to ask the right questions is equally important to developing a positive attitude that doesn’t put people on the defensive. With these in mind, here are some smart questions to help you get the answers you seek, but also to promote a degree of openness and maintain a proactive two-way communication process:

One, how’s everything with our Total Quality Management (TQM) Program? This question allows people to be accurate with their response. However, you need to read between the lines to secure a better answer. Then paraphrase what you got out of their reply, and ask a follow-up question — is that what you mean it is? If it’s not, then be patient with people by asking another question: And so, what do you mean?

Two, how can I help you with our TQM Program? There’s no better way to start a dialogue by offering your assistance to people. Don’t ask questions that give only “yes” or “no” answer. But you’ve to carefully frame your question in such a way that the other person would feel that you’re sincere and is always willing to help. However, this can only happen if you’ve a positive work relations.

Three, how much time and resources you need to sustain it? This question is related to number two above, but is more direct and specific. Most of the time, people are too shy to ask for time and company resources, thinking that you may reject them. If you ask this question, chances are, you may catch the person off-guard and elicit the right information you need.

Your success as a people manager depends to a large extent on knowing about problems at the earliest possible time, without being a pain in the neck to everyone. In addition, the overall efficiency and productivity of your department is enhanced if workers are encouraged to willingly contribute their ideas.

Whatever happens, don’t resort to admonishing people unless they’ve committed repeated delays and boo-boos. Praise them when you see them doing something that you like, but not when they perform overtime work without pay or use excessive company resources.

Rather, focus on tangible results, rather than the amount of time and resources they’ve spent in doing their jobs. When people are working smart, they would surely appreciate that you recognizes their best efforts. Your own people are more likely to be inspired to help your management by observing how positive you’ve become despite all odds.

Generally, people want to be part of the process that includes a boss who is ever-supportive. It means they want respect and the ability to contribute in determining how their work is performed, but only if management can raise intelligent questions.

ELBONOMICS: The whole point of Total Quality Management is continuity.