This article was originally published on April 2, 2018 and has been updated.
Inspect what you expect.
This is an old saying that I learned decades ago.
What does it mean, exactly? And what does it have to do with leadership?
Have you been guilty of spouting a directive then letting it die a natural death? We’ve all done it at one point or another—whether accidentally or intentionally, we’re all guilty.
When a leader sets out a goal or directive, that goal can only be achieved with good monitoring, or, inspection.
Whether you run a big business, a team, or are working on a small project, in order to achieve any sort of success, you have to be mindful of these simple words: inspect what you expect.
Here’s my story.
The Military Way
The “inspect what you expect” principle takes many forms.
During my days as a second lieutenant, we conducted regular health and welfare inspections.
While the military inspects a lot of things, this was unique. Those of you who have served in the military know why.
Those of you who don’t: buckle your seatbelts.
To achieve the best results, you must inspect.
One early morning at 3:30 a.m., the entire cadre (all of the managers and supervisors) of our training unit surrounded a barracks where a portion of our troops lived.
We suspected drug activity coming from this barracks.
This “health and welfare inspection” was actually a search and seizure mission.
We burst into the barracks and surprised all of the soldiers sleeping there. They were ousted from their bunks and told to stand at attention beside their footlockers while we searched the premises.
Sure enough, we found a stash of drugs and some paraphernalia tucked inside one of the footlockers.
Our target was achieved.
We could have preached and threatened the law about drugs, but we had to inspect what we expected.
This principle also applies to the success of most businesses.
Because even the best strategic planning simply won’t matter without proper execution.
A great leader must push forward to make things happen. They cannot stand still; they must be in constant motion, pushing towards a goal to reach success.
They must be focused.
Every plan and strategy associated with a goal must always be monitored and inspected to ensure proper execution and achievement.
Good project management comes from inspecting what you expect.
Have you heard of Six Sigma or DMAIC?
Six Sigma is a specific set of tools and techniques used to to help businesses improve their processes.
Inspecting what you expect is an integral part of Six Sigma. It is also an integral part of overall good project management.
For process improvement, a concept known as DMAIC is applied.
DMAIC is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control
…or, simply inspecting what you expect.
With DMAIC, you analyze results as they occur, checking them against expected outcomes.
If you find yourself off the mark, adjust and do it all over again. In other words, you are staying alert—at all times—to the things happening around you that affect your process and your progress.
The devil is in the details.
There is so much more to being a great leader than stating your plans and giving directives.
Great leaders walk the floor.
If you’re not walking the floor, you’re not being a good leader. You’re doing it wrong.
Leaders who don’t walk the floor find that things are not happening as they expect. Always remember: the devil is in the details.
You have to constantly be checking in, seeing what’s going on—walking the floor. You have to constantly ensure the appropriate measures are being put in place to achieve the right outcome.
You have to constantly test and review events and circumstances.
For example: if your business enforces things like safety or regulatory compliance, your role as a leader is to inspect and review events and circumstances. You have to check work every single day to ensure proper compliance.
If you don’t, people could get hurt.
Three easy steps to inspect:
Set expectations; specific expectations.
When issuing a directive, always be clear about your expectations. Be as specific as possible.
Volumes, dollars, incidence rates, hours, cost saves, the list goes on. The expectation you give will determine the outcome.
2. Be Consistent
Constantly inspect, and keep your inspections consistent. Keep communication open and be consistent in everything you do. Be open and don’t beat around the bush. Share your results.
3. Stay Visible
People need to know you are engaged and involved in the review process. Don’t get stuck behind your office door. Show your team you are active in the process. Be around them. Answer their questions. Motivate them.
Remember: you are the leader guiding the vision to the final outcome. Be available to talk it through with those who have questions. Walk the floor.
If your team is spread out geographically, remain visible with the right frequency of check-in calls and team meetings.
Let your team know that part of executing the mission is routine reviews.
So…do you inspect what you expect?
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