Inspect, inspect, to get what you expect

Aug. 15, 2017
Inspect, observe, and adjust.
Question: In a post, you discussed overcoming resistance to change and driving behaviors. How do you ensure people are doing the right things?

David, maintenance manager, California

Answer: Break free from the chains and go to gemba (where the value that the customer is willing to pay for is created, i.e., the manufacturing floor). Inspect, observe, and adjust. All too often, supervisors and managers allow themselves to become bound to their desks or endless meetings.

Frontline supervisors should target two-thirds of their day in the field. Managers need to be visible frequently on the floor, too – ideally, daily. Not for a meeting, but to talk with people as they go about their day. Getting into the field (during any shift) is one of the most important things you can do. When I was a maintenance manager, and later as an operations manager, you never knew when I might pop up on the manufacturing floor. It wasn't because I was trying to catch people doing something wrong. Rather, if we truly believe that people are our most important asset, then we must make ourselves available to them, on all shifts. I wanted to have conversations and build relationships. I tried to put myself in their shoes from a servant leadership perspective.

Nelson Mandela said: “A leader ... is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

Recognize that “you get what you inspect, not what you expect.” When you go to gemba, you need to observe the behaviors that you are trying to change. These observations provide firsthand unfiltered information that you can’t get from a desk. Are people doing what you expect or something different? If people are doing something different than expected, you want to investigate why. Everyone wants to do the right thing. Deming said that 94% of issues result from the processes that management put in place and only 6% are truly the worker's fault. Something prompts a worker to perform a workaround to the process so he or she can accomplish the job. Determine why; adjust the processes if necessary; and implement the changes.

There is a short movie titled "The Sid Story" where the department manager uses a concept called “unplanned, spontaneous recognition.” Every morning on the drive to work, he has 30 minutes to think about what he would look for someone doing right that day. When he sees someone doing it, he rewards the person. The reward could be a simple “thank you,” or he might offer a cup of coffee. If he does not find someone doing what he is looking for that day, no one knows, so it’s not a big deal.

I’ll go on to add that you should have a formal audit process in place to ensure a consistent approach to implementation. I’ll also share that audits performed in groups as opposed to individually yield a much greater impact. In a group setting, you can set expectations, and everyone learns together. In an upcoming post, I will share what that audit process looks like and the steps to implement it.

What are your thoughts? What percentage of the time do you spend on the manufacturing floor as opposed to working at the desk and in meetings? What have you done that has proved successful in overcoming this issue? Please post your comments or questions.

Talk soon,
Jeff Shiver, CMRP

If you have questions in the fields of maintenance, reliability, planning and scheduling, MRO storerooms, or leadership as examples, please contact Jeff Shiver with your question(s) here.

About the Author

Jeff Shiver | Founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc.

Jeff Shiver CMRP is a founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc. Jeff guides people to achieve success in maintenance and reliability practices using common sense approaches. Visit or email [email protected].

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