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Four Questions For a Frontline Manager …

April 17, 2023
A frontline manager can be viewed as a person leading a (production or service) system where their primary asset is their people, in particular their frontline leaders, through whom the manager will get their operational results.

There are four questions such a manager can ask the frontline leaders routinely, the answers to which will give a sound indication of the potential for system stability – desirable results reliably. System stability, for many, would be a terrific outcome.

The first and the absolute foundational one is …

With respect to our daily work, how easy is it for Leaders to identify any difference between WHAT SHOULD BE HAPPENING and WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING?

(After a consistently sound answer to this first one) the manager is now ready to ask the second question which is …

How is our (potential) problem/risk of ‘don’t know, can’t do’ being considered and addressed?

The system is now to the point where the problem/risk that will surface is ‘does know, can do, but ISN’T doing’. The manager is now ready to ask …

How is our problem/risk of ‘does know, can do, but isn’t doing’ being addressed?

Somewhat associated with the second and third questions above, the manager asks their fourth question …

How is our daily work being planned, reflected on, misses noted with recurring issues being addressed?

Note the questions, except perhaps the first, are all open questions – questions where it is difficult to provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. An explanation will be necessary with Q2, 3 and 4, from which one can gleam understanding. As the ‘robustness’ of the responses increases, so will system stability, thus so too reliable desirable results.

The four questions can be tested in an operational area, no need to jump in operations wide (which would likely be too big of a step).

Further notes on each of the four questions, one at a time in order, will be posted on our website on May 4, May 18, June 1 and June 15. The June 15 post will comment in more detail on ‘deliberate practise’, something necessary for most of us to enable the four questions to flow naturally. If you have questions in the meantime, please email Oscar (oscar@vwaust.com).