Inspect What You Expect
Back in 1990, when I was managing a maintenance department, the bakery hired a new production manager who strutted in with all these grandiose ideas about how he could improve the operation.
You know, he was the turnaround guy.
As the hard-headed, tool-totin’ maintenance guy, I didn’t need to hear how somebody in baker’s whites was going to waltz in and change “my” bakery.
As much as I wanted to reject all of the “new guy’s” suggestions, he was persistent and wouldn’t let me be me.
I still remember one of his favorite lines. “You can’t expect what you don’t inspect,” he said.
I now refer to this as IWYE (eye-why).
At this time in my career, I had not experienced any special training on how to manage or deal with maintenance issues. It was a time when the person who worked the hardest and solved the most problems moved up into management positions. From there, you learned how to manage. Unfortunately, this scenario set us up for a lot of mistakes. However, more importantly, it also provided a lot of experiences.
So in walks this guy with his fancy one-liner. It took me a while, but when I finally took the time to understand the concept of inspecting what I was expecting, it changed my perception of the job and my performance on the job in a positive manner.
Whether I was dealing with my mechanics, the machinery, the bakers or my suppliers, once I figured out what I expected, I could then devise ways to examine them and create positive results.
With regards to mechanics, I had to convert my thinking from expecting them to understand what they were doing -- no matter the assignment -- to a mindset of teaching them what to do and monitoring their progress. Just think about it for a moment. If you only live in a world of expectations, you are likely to be disappointed more often than pleased.
When I reminisce about how the machinery operated back then, it was either a well-running system -- one where the equipment only needed to be lubricated and parts replaced -- or a piece of junk that the manufacturer stuck me with. If it were the latter, the system would often break, and solutions were hard to come by.
I soon understood that I was expecting too much out of these inanimate objects called bakery machines, so I applied the IWYE principles. It didn’t matter if the equipment was a well-running or junk machine. I realized that a little inspection went a long way.
And furthermore, I learned patience, which later led to appreciation for the proficient machines and to developing solutions for the flawed systems. By performing these routine quality inspections, we resolved problems at a quicker turnaround rate.
Thanks to my auto racing background, I named this process “making laps.” The mechanics were required to spend as much time as possible on the production floor just looking, listening and smelling the equipment. Yes, smelling. You can learn a lot about how a piece of equipment is functioning by using your nose.
In the end, “making laps” worked.
While “making laps” resolved some problems, other issues needed a different approach. Take, for example, bakers and mechanics. Back then, they rarely got along, which led to a lot of finger pointing for machine failures. Either the mechanic didn’t correct the problem or the baker tore it up. My expectations for bakers were simple. They should be trained to work on the machines but weren’t required to know anything about the machine itself.
However, because I was in this whole “new me” thing, I was able to adjust my expectations and realize that bakers were posted at the machines more than the mechanics and myself combined. Therefore, these operators knew what the equipment was supposed to sound, look and smell like. I realized that these bakers were my machine inspectors, too. By changing my expectations and letting them be part of my inspection process, I not only brought bakers and mechanics together, but also we increased our performance and running efficiency. As a result, this bakery became the one others in the company were measured against.
On the supplier side of the business, we applied IWYE principles to new equipment purchases and parts orders. No machine was shipped to the bakery until we inspected it and could ensure that all expectations were met. The same process applied to parts orders. Nothing hit the parts shelves or was assigned to a repair order until we confirmed that it was the right piece.
So there you have it. Simple little one-liners can help you improve and change your career path.
This is where the other important one-liner -- “two-ears, one-mouth” -- comes in handy.