Ask Better Lean Manufacturing Questions

Learn to Ask Better Questions

The more that I learn about Lean Manufacturing the more I have learnt to ask better questions. We all know that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything from the supercomputer, Deep Thought  turns out to be 42. However the flip side of this is that the Ultimate Question itself is unknown.

In manufacturing we have metrics for quality, delivery, cost, moral and safety. Many of them have targets and the answers is known. However the question “How do we achieve this” always needs more questions in order to understand how these targets can be reached.  When we start down the business improvement path it is important to be aware the way you ask a question can be more important than the answer itself. I cannot claim to be an expert in asking questions however in my role across many different industries I ask a lot of questions.

Here are some examples from a Harvard Business Review article by Judith Ross (2009) that l still use as a little gem of knowledge, that you may also be able to gain insight from.


  1. They create clarity: “Can you explain more about this situation?”
  2. They construct better working relations: Instead of “Did you make your sales goal?” ask, “How have sales been going?”
  3. They help people think analytically and critically: “What are the consequences of going this route?”
  4. They inspire people to reflect and see things in fresh, unpredictable ways: “Why did this work?”
  5. They encourage breakthrough thinking: “Can that be done in any other way?”
  6. They challenge assumptions: “What do you think you will lose if you start sharing responsibility for the implementation process?”
  7. They create ownership of solutions: “Based on your experience, what do you suggest we do here?”

Read These Articles For Inspiration

You can read the full articles in the links below;

How to Ask Better Questions by Judith Ross

Four tips for asking better questions

If you don’t have the answer to a problem, you can always work on asking the better questions. These may unlock a next step or chip away at the problem as you explore your way to achieve the result needed.


Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions