One of the first questions employees ask during quality management implementation when management is asking them to help improve quality is, “Can we trust management?” Mutual trust is mandatory for building management-employee process improvement teams.
Management must trust employees enough to ask for their help and to share with them the responsibility for continuous process improvement. Employees must trust management enough to respond to this request by contributing their knowledge and their ideas.
Actively listening down, not talking down, can be the first step in establishing trust. Listening down helps establish two-way communication, and carries two-way responsibility. Those being listened to should have something constructive to say. Ideas for improvement, not yesterday’s complaints, are needed. Those doing the listening need to be ready to react to the ideas that will be generated. Pushing responsibility down the organization also helps build trust.
Decisions for process improvement should occur at the lowest possible level in the organization. Decisions that must be elevated should be responded to in a timely manner. If an idea cannot be used, an explanation should be given to those making the recommendation. A timely “no thank you because” will be accepted.