When examining efficiency and workflow, it’s important to ask for feedback about a proposed change. Understanding the perspective we all bring to the table is critical to evaluating how and why we make certain choices.
I was once getting ready for a day-long hike with a friend when we stopped for ice at a gas station. We planned to fill a cooler and use the rest in our water bottles. The ice was in a few giant blocks and we needed to smash it up a bit. We were systematically dropping the bag onto a towel in the trunk when a stranger walked up and grabbed it. They threw the ice on the ground, shattering the large chunks into pieces, turned to us and said, “You’re doing it wrong”.
As the person walked off, my friend took out $5 and went to get a new bag of ice. Because the bag ripped and had dirt mixed in from hitting the pavement, the ice wasn’t clean enough for drinking. Not only did our good Samaritan get us no closer to our goal, they actually set us back a bit.
Context can be everything when it comes to assessing the best course of action and how we get there. If reviewing a process elicits any of the feedback below, try one of these follow up questions. They help re-frame ambiguous replies into valuable points of view.
When people say “My way is better”, ask “How does a change impact you?”
Since better is often code for familiar, this response leaves a lot open to interpretation. What does better really mean? Faster? Cheaper? Easier? Helping people articulate the ripple effects of a change better positions us to identify its positive and negative impacts. Maybe the current way is better, but we need concrete reasons why this is the case.
If you hear “This change is unnecessary”, ask “What are you already doing that meets this need?”
Competing interests fill our often overburdened schedules. Our first response to disruptions to the delicate balance we’ve created is sometimes outright rejection. How many of us have reflexively said “no” to something just hoping it would go away? If you haven’t, you’re a Jedi Master of bureaucracy and we should hang out. I’ve got a lot to learn from you. When a person tells me something is unnecessary, I want more details. Is there truly no gap to fill? If we’re lucky, someone already implemented a solution which we can use as a starting point for wider adoption.
When someone says “I don’t care, make whatever change you want”, ask “Why doesn’t this make a difference to you?”
In many cases, “I don’t care” is the work equivalent to “get off my lawn.” It’s essentially a socially acceptable way to disengage from the conversation so that a person doesn’t have to take responsibility. Why don’t they care? Do they feel their opinion isn’t valued? Are they convinced a decision is a foregone conclusion and the conversation is a formality? Are they trying to tell you that there are different stakeholders you should be talking to? Asking more pointed questions often uncovers valuable insights that might otherwise have been overlooked.
A new process is only as good as the reasons we use to implement the change. Having strategies to improve feedback quality is yet another tool in our arsenal.
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