How hard is it to answer "What can we do better"?

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

All too often, I hear Manager and Supervisors asking their teams “What can we do better?”. But there is no specific topic for discussion, no ideas board, no goal or target measure to review.


Have you ever been asked this question in a general manner?

I have. And it's frustrating. You are normally having a heavy day full of tasks and deadlines to complete, and the last thing on your mind is to be asked such an open ended question. This type of question needs thought and time. And this is something you often don’t have or cannot afford. The result? Not the right type of ideas, no time to focus fully on the question.

Here are some top tips on where to start when focusing on improvement idea gathering:

  1. Firstly, give a good reason! Provide your teams with background for asking, why or who is giving pressure from upper management to come up with new ideas, and some commitment level as to what and how the company will do with your ideas. You may ask for ideas, and then your teams will never see results, actions or participate in implementing them. Communication is key.

  2. Hold a brainstorming session. Our Brainstorm section gives some tools about how to work on creativity.

  3. Give each of your team members a notepad. When someone feels frustrated, angry or unproductive, have them stop. Write down the issue before continuing. Your Supervisor, Manager or Continuous Improvement leader collects the ideas at the end of each shift or working day, and asks the person to confirm their frustration, and to clarify their writings. Open issues get posted onto a work board, visible to everyone. Ideas can be ranked by importance to the customer, ease of implementation, or highest impact on making an administrator's work task easier. Choose the best criteria for you. You could use a Decision Matrix to support you.

  4. Go see other departments, spend time sitting with other areas who may be impacted by your team's processes. Ask what is not going well for them, and to recommend areas for improvement in process, speed or communication. You will be surprised about how much feedback internally can be gained, and used constructively to build on your teams list of ideas.

  5. Commitment - ensure follow through on each idea, that it is recorded and kept updated to show progress through to completion. Use an Action Plan. If you cannot action any idea (too complex, no IT resource etc), inform your team that the idea will go into a longer term list of improvement opportunities. These should be stored in a central location and reviewed regularly for start up.

  6. Think small - often teams feel a major change is needed to improve their function. It is often the small changes through removing one process step, using a different software or tool, or passing the task to another team, that make the biggest impact. Every small change makes up a larger and more positive impact, are normally the easiest and quickest to implement, and are the longest lasting.

  7. Celebrate success! No matter how large or small the change, any idea which has been successfully implemented should be celebrated and rewarded within your team.

Think small, and you will gain big benefits. And it help to result in a more positive and motivated team. Why not start this week with your kick-off meeting?