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Leadership: You Must Inspect What You Expect | Doug Thorpe - Leadership Powered by Common Sense
Inspect Expect

Leadership: You Must Inspect What You Expect

This is an old saying; inspect what you expect. I learned it decades ago. Whether you run a big business or a small team, GM or Bob’s Taco Shop, in order to achieve any sort of success, you must be mindful of these simple words.

Inspect ExpectAt some point in our careers, Managers are all guilty of spouting some directive then letting it die a natural death. Face it, folks, we’ve all done it. It may have been by accident or intentional. However, the good things don’t happen without some degree of monitoring.

The Military Way

The application of this “inspect what you expect” principle takes many forms. During my days as a Second Lieutenant, we conducted what was affectionately called a health and welfare inspection. The military inspects a lot of things, but this kind is unique. Those of you who have served know exactly what I am about to describe.

At 3:30 AM the entire cadre of our troop training unit had surrounded a barracks where a portion of our troops lived. The cadre means all the managers and supervisors; in this case the platoon sergeants and the officers of the Company. We burst into the barracks and surprised all of the soldiers sleeping there. They were rousted out of their bunks and told to stand at attention beside their footlockers while we searched the premises.

We had been suspicious of some drug activity coming from this particular barracks. The “health and welfare inspection” was really a search and seizure mission. Sure enough, we found a stash and some paraphernalia tucked inside one of the footlockers. Our target was achieved. By the way, this was perfectly legal under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

We could have preached and threatened the law about the drugs, but we had to inspect what we expected.

The principle also serves to increase the likelihood of success for most businesses. Why? Because all of the best strategic planning and business development won’t matter without execution. Leaders must push forward to make things happen. As plans and procedures are shared with the team, their effort to go to work must be monitored.

Project Management and Six Sigma

Inspecting what you expect is an integral part of Six Sigma and good project management. For process improvement, a concept known as DMAIC is applied. DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control; simply inspecting what you expect.

With DMAIC, as you measure the output that is happening, you analyze the results, checking them against expected outcome. If you find yourself off the mark, you adjust and do it all over again.

That is a perfect picture of the more direct idea of staying alert to the things happening around you.

Walking the Floor

Managers who fail to walk the floor often find things are not happening as they expected. Stating your big plans and giving directives is not the end of the leader’s duty. Quite the contrary actually. The devil is in the details of checking on what is happening, putting appropriate measures in place so that outcomes can be viewed.

If yours is a business with a high degree of prescribed procedures that enforce things like safety and soundness or regulatory compliance, the inspecting part is really about testing and review of events and circumstances. Each day the work needs to be checked for proper compliance. Sampling can work too. In certain cases, people can get hurt if procedures are not followed.

Three Easy Steps

reviewThe first step towards success is written right in the phrase. Expect. Set expectations. When you are ready to issue a directive, you must include some specific expectations. Volumes, dollars, incidence rates, hours, cost saves, and so forth. All of these represent ways to set expectations.

There is a story of the old Continental Airlines before Gordon Bethune became its CEO. Continental had developed a horrible reputation for on-time flights. Bethune studied the situation. He discovered the pilot’s performance was rated by fuel economy, not on-time arrivals. In flight, planes burn a lot of fuel making up time against a headwind. So planes were late.

Bethune reversed the whole expectation. He said fuel cost be damned. Let’s get folks out on time and arriving on time. They did.

Under Bethune’s leadership, the whole airline turned around its reputation and became one of the world’s premier airlines, later buying United.

Second, you must make the review consistent. Keep it going. One and done is not going to work. Clear up any misunderstandings about the original expectation. Keep communication flowing. Share results.

Third, stay visible in your review. People need to know you are engaged and involved in the review process. Don’t get stuck behind your office door. As the leader guiding the vision for the final outcome, be available to talk it through with those who have questions. As mentioned above, walking the floor is very important.

If your team is spread out geographically, still remain visible with the right frequency of check-in calls and team meetings. Let it be known the review is happening as a routine part of executing the mission.

Question: Do you inspect what you expect?

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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About the Author Doug Thorpe

Hi, I am Doug Thorpe. Author, speaker, entrepreneur, and business coach.

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