John Shook’s latest column on LEI’s site is about coaching and whether it is better to give them the answers or just ask questions.
Asking questions in a way that actually teaches is a skill that we, as a “lean” community do not foster very well. Certainly in U.S. corporate culture, we are expected to be the experts, and to have the answers. John’s post is summed up well by his last paragraph:
Learning to Sensei: A prerequisite for the apprentice sensei who is learning to not give solutions is to grasp for himself the fact that he doesn’t actually know the solution. Once you grasped that, then it’s very easy to not give “the answer” you simply don’t really have an answer to give. But, while it is not necessary for you to give or even possess “the solution”, you do have an important obligation, which is to give the question or learning assignment in a way that will lead to the learning, with learning as the goal. Once that is accomplished, all sorts of “solutions” will fall out. Then you can experience the joy, liberation, and humility that come with admitting you don’t know.
You can read the whole thing here:
Now, as an additional value-add…
This really falls under the general notion of “Socratic teaching.” One of the best overviews of what this is really about is Rick Garlikov’s classic piece where he recounts his experiment with teaching through questions. If you don’t think this can work for difficult topics, then I suggest you read his account of using only questions to teach binary arithmetic to a typical class of third graders. If he can teach 8 year olds to understand that 0110 + 0011 = 1001, then surely we can get adults through understanding why takt time is important for management.
“What are you trying to do?”
“How will you know you have done it?”