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Ask the right question to get the right answer

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Ask the right question to get the right answerOn 5 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. InHR you are only as good as the questions you ask. Vague and nebulous questionsusually result in vague and nebulous solutions. For example, the question,”How do we work well in teams?” receives the answer “byteambuilding”. Unfortunately,senior managers do not help much. They are not very good at articulating theirmost difficult personnel issues, but still have an expectation that HR willcome to them with a solution. There are plenty of pre-prepared solutionsaround, but genuine business partners in HR will have made sure that they haveclearly defined the problem first.DiagnosingHR causes is notoriously difficult, but a clear and focused questioningtechnique should be capable of producing the correct solution. The key questionshould always be, “How will this add value?” Unfortunately,”value” is a word that appears to have different meanings forstakeholders with differing perceptions. HRprofessionals know all about organisational values and regard them as somehowsoft and cultural. To a line manager, added value is hard and only comes fromdoing more with less – increasing revenue or cutting costs – while the customerperceives value only in the “value for money” sense. The trick for HRis to make a connection between all three.Sodoes a command and control culture, and the values that go along with that,normally result in excellent levels of customer service at the right price? Idon’t know, is the honest answer. Butthere seems to be an assumption behind most change management programmes thatflexible, no-blame cultures lend themselves to improved customer service. Thismay be true, but unless it is absolutely clear to everyone concerned how changemanagement is going to add value, then where will the motivation for changecome from? “Changeagents” often try to articulate which behaviours will be evident in ano-blame culture. They talk about stimulating innovation, sharing knowledge andimproving responsiveness, but rarely, if ever, do they use hard figures to backup their theory. Theadded value question asks where the hard results will start to show up in suchan organisation – in higher output, lower costs or customer feedback on qualityand service? It also immediately begs the question of which measures we have inplace to gauge this shift. Funnily enough, the required measures are often notalready collected, which leads to the obvious but slightly embarrassingquestion of what prompted the need for change in the first place.Notall change is for the better, and change without progress is pointless.Questions on anticipated, measurable outcomes should ensure that changeactually adds the sort of value everybody is seeking.ByPaul KearnsSenior Partner, Personnel Workslast_img read more