Thursday, October 27, 2011

George Mindling Column 03-25-2005



If You Ask For Suggestions, Listen To Them


“Dear Dum-Dum, Why are you bothering us? Why are you so stupid? Don’t you understand anything?”

Of course the wording is usually smoother and more professional, but the meaning is clear: keep your nose out of our business! That, basically, is the rejection response to most suggestion program submissions. A suggestion, by nature, is calling somebody’s baby ugly.

There is a manager or owner somewhere responsible for taking action on a suggestion, whether it is a formal, sponsored suggestion program, or simply a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. A discovered fault, or a better way to do something, usually means someone has failed to perform his or her assigned duties.

If you are a business owner, it is time to swallow your pride and take a hard look at the suggestion. It might save you money or even your customers, especially if the suggestion comes from a customer.

It is up to the suggestor to define the new procedure, and the duty of the program owner to defend his or her performance of assigned duties. A suggestion that defines or illuminates an error in judgment or even failure to comply with laws or guidelines may well be rejected by a single review when in fact it is a valid suggestion. Asking a reviewer outside the realm of authority usually results in an unbiased review as is there is no ownership of responsibility.

Whining about status quo is not productive. Neither is it well received by management or owners. Whiners are usually held in contempt because they add to a problem rather than to the resolution. Suggestors should avoid complaining when they in fact have valid improvement suggestions. Often, people responsible for identified problems are aware of the conditions but are prevented from action by budget restraints or even legal issues. A business owner, however, works under a different set of guidelines. Discretionary spending doesn’t have to go before a board for approval. Legal issues may have to go to an attorney outside the company.

A standing joke in the Air Force about finding the easiest way to perform a given task was to simply ask the laziest person you know how they would do that job. The lazy person will always find a way to accomplish a given task with the minimum of effort. Not necessarily time or cost, but it will always be the easiest route possible. Balance that against reality. Prudence must play a role as safety is always an issue, as well as what is legal and what isn’t. People who are not in management positions may not have a say in how a business is run, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of how a given business fails or succeeds.

If you are the business owner, divorce yourself from the “I’m the boss” syndrome and take a look at what your employees have to say. Their suggestions may well be the key to success in your business.

George Mindling  © 2005

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