Once you’ve established your quality management system on a continual improvement framework and put the word out that your stakeholders (e.g. employees, clients) can raise a suggestion, you will have them coming at you from all directions.
Now, getting lots of ideas and suggestions is a really good thing. But, it is not always possible to implement every idea. There may be financial restrictions, the idea doesn’t work within program guidelines, or maybe it just doesn’t suit your organisation or your clients. How, then, do you say ‘no’ without it coming across too harsh? After all, we don’t want to discourage people from making suggestions. Here are my tips for how to say ‘no’ to an idea.
1. First and foremost, always thank the person who raised the idea, no matter what you think of it. Just because this idea won’t work, doesn’t mean that a future one wouldn’t, so we always want to make sure that people feel comfortable to speak out.
2. Get back to people in a reasonable timeframe—and by that I mean in less than two weeks, wherever possible. If you can’t give a definite answer in that timeframe then always give progress updates. Remember, the relationships you have with people is the most important thing in our quality management profession. Saying ‘no’ after saying nothing for two months is bad customer service, and there is no
excuse for this, full stop.
3. Always give a reason why—it doesn’t have to be in-depth, but it should be honest (to a point, you do have to stay professional!). For example: “Unfortunately we’re not able to implement your suggestion at this point because our budget has been allocated for the rest of the year to other activities in our client
4. Do provide an alternative where possible. Ideas can be similar and if you’ve recently implemented an idea that is like the one you’re saying ‘no’ to, make sure you let the person know, for example: “Although we’re not able to implement your idea about having a coffee machine installed in the activities area, we have recently engaged a coffee van to come every morning, starting from next week.”
5. Close with another thank you, and leave the door open for other suggestions and ideas.
In a quality management career, you will hear a lot of ideas, both good and (sometimes!) not-so-good. I love ideas because it means that the people raising them care enough about the organisation and the service to want to help and try to improve it—so I always want to see a lot of ideas coming through! Staying
positive about all ideas will come through to your stakeholders and make a ‘no’ sound positive too.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!