Asking Simple Questions Can Lead to Huge Benefits

Posted by on Nov 1, 2012 in Continuous Improvement, Creativity, Efficiency, Lean Six Sigma, Process Improvement | 0 comments

Do you need to create change in your organization?  Having problems financially?  Instead of trying to hit a home run and get thousands of dollars in one project, another approach you can take is to ask simple questions.  If you were asked to save a million dollars in your organization, it would probably set off your brain’s alarm system and have a paralyzing effect on you.  However, if you were asked, “Can you think of one way you could cut a few dollars off our expenses?” or “What is the smallest thing we could do to save money?” these questions are far less intimidating.

Small questions are less threatening and allow our creative impulses to get engaged.  You might not get an answer to your small question right away, but keep asking.  By repeating simple questions, you force people to mull it over, and they will start thinking and looking for ways to contribute.

Here are a few examples of how asking simple questions had huge benefits:

  • American Airlines offset a nine-figure increase in fuel costs and saved a potential $100 million, $25 at a time by:
    • Asking passengers to lower their shades before disembarking to keep the plane cooler.
    • Getting rid of unused ovens.
    • Asking pilots to plug into ground power when waiting at the gate instead of using the plane’s auxiliary power.
  • UPS recognized that left-hand turns were costing the company a lot of money because delivery trucks have to idle longer at intersections, consuming a lot of fuel and taking up precious time.  By editing their GPS software, they were able to reduce the number of left-hand turns.  They estimated that this change alone saved 28.5 million miles off their usual routes in one year and 3 million gallons of gas.
  • A flight attendant at Southwest Airlines saw that the trash bags they used had the company logo printed on them and suggested they use unmarked trash bags.  This small idea saved them $300 thousand annually.

Simple questions that led to actions taken together that had huge benefits.  It’s a simple strategy and it may be one that works for you!

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