Exploring the Cliché: Inspect What You Expect
We all recognize an old cliché when we see it — words of wisdom that have been uttered hundreds, if not thousands, of times. You can probably finish the sentence after spotting just a couple of words.
However, the fact that something is a cliché does not mean it is wrong. All it means is that it has been repeated and become conventional wisdom. The reason the phrase is repeated is because it is usually based on a true assumption or fact.
Let’s take one of the Management Hall of Fame’s most famous phrases: "You must inspect what you expect." First of all, what does this even mean? It tells us that if you are expecting a certain outcome, you need to check to make sure the outcome actually happened. For example, if you expect a clean store, you need to go around the store and give it a hard look to make sure it has been done. The bottom line is that you can’t take anything for granted.
For a retail operator, though, I feel the phrase is a bit more complex than that. It is not just about walking around to make sure something has been done. It really is not about the end result at all — it is about the process.
You must create an objective, communicate that objective, make sure the team attempting the objective has the right tools, and provide support and guidance to the team to keep them on track. Then, you can inspect the result (and reward the team for the accomplishment).
That sounds like a fairly complicated task structure for just keeping a store clean (or anything else), but I believe it is essential to making sure the goals are achieved.
Let’s break the process down into simpler building blocks:
Create an Objective
What is it that you want done? Is it obtainable? Does your team have the right skills to accomplish it? Is it a long-term or short-term goal? Will the task need to be maintained or repeated? Once you have answers to these questions, you can move on to the next step in the process.
For example, our objective is to have a clean store. We need to be very specific as to what the objective entails. In our case, we will focus just on the retail sales space (cleaning behind the counter and the store room will be future challenges). When we say clean, we mean floors mopped; shelves and products dusted, fronted and faced; windows and cooler doors cleaned; the foodservice and beverage bar wiped down and orderly; and all of the trash receptacles empty.
We have a well-trained crew working the midnight shift who can achieve the objective. It needs to be done quickly (short-term) and we expect it to be done continuously (maintained).
We now know where we are going. We just have to figure out how to get there. We need a map.
Communicate the Objective
We need to tell the person(s) responsible what it is that we want done and we need to be very specific about it. We can’t just say "clean the store" because that leaves too much open to interpretation and sets the performer up for failure. We need to say exactly what we want (provide them with the list in the paragraph above), make sure they understand what we want, tell them when it needs to be done, and get confirmation it will be done by that date.
If we go through this step completely, then we have a person who is responsible for the objective and, more importantly, knows they are responsible.
Provide the Right Tools
Does our team have access to the right tools to do this work? For our objective, the tools are pretty straightforward: a broom, a mop, a bucket, cleaning disinfectant, water, paper towels and dust cleaning cloth. (Side note: It is better to use products like Swiffer because it collects and retains the dust, rather than a traditional feather duster that only moves the dust from one place to another). Pretty easy.
However, there is one tool that always needs to be provided and is often overlooked — time. We need to make sure the team attacking the objective has sufficient time to do the work, or else it will not get done and everyone may lose.
If there is not sufficient time in the current schedule, providing time can be as easy as assigning a part-time person to gain some extra hours or adding another full-time person to free up time on a regular basis. Regardless, time is the most important tool we have and it needs to be available.
Provide Support & Guidance
When we know that work is being done, we need to visit the store to make sure the person doing it is headed in the right direction. If someone is headed off on the wrong path, it is essential to intervene as soon as possible to get them back on track. Prompt action will save time and reduce frustration.
In our example, checking in on the night person doing the work will help ensure you get what you are looking for. In addition, if your encounter is positive and supportive (even if he is cleaning the front-side walk rather than the store floor), it will be appreciated as positive training input.
Inspect the Result
After you’ve assured that the person is headed in the right direction, it will be time to show up on the agreed-upon completion date to inspect the work. If you have done everything correctly (see how I put the responsibility on you rather than the person doing the work), then you should be inspecting what you expected to see. If what you see isn’t what you expected, you need to review the above steps and see where you either missed something or did not communicate something fully.
I hope it goes without saying that if you are seeing the result you wanted, then you need to provide positive feedback to the person doing the work and let that person’s supervisor know of his or her successful completion. Doing something well needs positive reinforcement for it to feel like an accomplishment. It will also encourage and motivate the person to continue to do the work needed to keep the store clean all of the time.
One of the exciting parts of this process is that you can scale it up to larger and more complex projects. Starting with the fulfillment of simple tasks can lead to the completion of more complicated ones. You can build on the successes and try to take them to the next level, but you must remember to follow all of the steps of the process.
As you can see, the old cliché still lives! In this case, the important thing is to be involved, communicate well and reinforce good behavior.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.