We Must “Inspect” to Ensure Healthy Positive Growth

Dr. Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976) was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the ‘uncertainty’ principle of quantum theory.   In plain English (sort of), the principle says that it is impossible to determine simultaneously the position and velocity of a particle. This is due in part to the fact that ‘observations’ on a system ‘influenced’ the system being measured.

How does this relate to business management?  The Heisenberg theory simply states “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.”  When you understand that the system and ‘practice of measurement’ does exert a psychological influence on the people being measured, that, in and of itself, affects the operating results.  Part of the control process is measuring people and processes. The measuring action alone works like the Heisenberg Principle and affects the results.

Measuring systems, people or processes should focus on the ‘activities’ to insure the desired results.  Communicate priorities to your entire team. What is important to the manager then becomes important to the employee, and what the manager does not give attention to is perceived as unimportant by the employee.   Choose it or lose it.  The Key here is to make certain you are checking on the correct things.   I particularly like what Sam Walton practiced – Management by walking around, seeing and hearing what was going on.  Or inspecting instead of simply expecting.  He could have chosen to sit in his office and guessed at outcomes or become dependent upon his managers to tell him their ideas of what was happening.  The MPI should not be reserved for the service department.  It needs to be a regularly performed leadership practice.  Remember;  “You do get what you inspect, not what you expect.”

Impact GroupThe following is a very cool and enlightening example of  how just the act of ‘measuring’ affects the outcome:

Based on a five year study conducted in the 1920s at the Western Electric Plant in Cicero,  Illinois a Professor from Harvard Business School Management wanted to determine the optimum level of lighting for employees to create the best  production output.   Actually, they really wanted to find the least amount of light to “stream” into the plant to save money and still get good production from the workers.  Where would the happy medium occur?

They commissioned a team of students to watch, document, and observe the assembly line workers. The premise was to measure the physical and environmental influences of the workplace such as brightness of lights, humidity, and the psychological aspects such as breaks, group pressure, working hours and managerial leadership.

The lumens were manipulated up and down. Lo and behold, when more light was fed into the factory, the workers were happy, productivity went up and everything was copacetic.

Then, they started to dim the light. The expectation of course was that productivity would go down. To everyone’s surprise productivity continued to climb.  They made the decision to dim the lights even  more and to everyone’s bigger surprise, productivity climbed higher.  Whaaaat?

This inspection process continued for a while.  It actually became a little humorous.  The Western Electric employees were practically working in the dark, yet productivity was exceedingly high.  Plant management was happy.  Employees were happy. They all looked forward to going to work each day. Win-win situation: happy employees, low electric bill. Life was good all over the place.

The commissioned study was coming to an end. The diligent observers packed their notebooks, clocks, pocket protectors,  calculations, wing tips, white coats and left.  Within a mere  two days productivity started to go down. More light maybe? Productivity was still in a downward spiral. After much analysis, the definitive conclusion was that the real catalyst in all this was the ‘attention’ the workers were getting and how valued they felt because of it. Where otherwise they don’t get any, except when something goes wrong . That alone kept the morale and the productivity up. It had nothing to do with the amount of lumens in the factory.

Why is this important?

  • Management needs to understand that there are unintended, un-thought factors that affect productivity. Watch what you say, how you act and what you emit to your team.
  • Management should be mindful of understanding what and how to deal with the emptiness after a project was managed, implemented, and life returns to normal. Gotta start a new initiative. Keep your initiatives, learning, leadership and personal growth workshops on going!
  • The relationships that Managers develop with employees tend to influence the manner in which the workers carry out directives and the productivity they produce. Better focus on positive, enhancive and new employee relationship initiatives. Employee satisfaction index (ESI)makes better CSI.  Believe it and live it.
  • The team is important; there is a social system that is interdependent in the workplace. The individual talents in your store are paled by the sum of those talents working together.

Just like in quantum physics or quantum mechanics:  The very act of observing a system, or people will in itself affect that system and the people. In this case, behavior is altered simply because it is being observed and making the people feel valued.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing employee and customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual people improvement.

In the 1970s, Dr. Deming’s philosophy was summarized by some of his Japanese proponents with the following ‘a’-versus-‘b’ comparison:

A) When people and organizations focus primarily on quality (inspecting), defined by the following ratio,

Quality = Results of Work Efforts / Total Costs

Quality tends to increase and costs fall over time.

B) However, when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time.

Thus, your focus and attention needs to be on your greatest assets – your people.  Any dealership can compete on capital expenditure like advertising but no one can compete with a store that values and places their stock in their employees.  The newspaper is in the trash the next day, the ads are in most cases forgotten but the lingering assets of your team’s enhancement towards professionalism will remain fixed in place. Give them new tools, new learning techniques, encouragement and inspection regularly.

Here is one (and there are many) simple example of how to use this concept of inspection vs. expectation?Impact Group

When was the last time you or had a friend inspect and examine the service lane?  A friend of mine, let’s call him Hal,  recently stopped into his local dealership for service.  Hal, a humble guy,  happened to be good personal friends with the dealer and although no one resented  this, everyone in service knew it.   Hal drove his vehicle into the service lane within sight of everyone working the desks.  Every Service Advisor including the Service Manager  looked up to see who was driving the “only” I might add, vehicle in their lane.  All 4 SA’s after looking up diverted their eyes back to paperwork, computer or some other form of ‘busyness’.  Even the Service Manager after seeing Hal, looked away and went back to speaking with one of the technicians.  Hal stood there alone by his vehicle for 13 minutes and began pondering where the next closest dealership was.

Finally, one of the SA’s came over and greeted him with “what can I do for you today”?  Are you kidding me?  No one could muster up the courage, courtesy much less the customer relationship building requirements by immediately greeting Hal  a.) when he first drove in?  Even if it was a “good morning Hal, I’ll be with you in just a few minutes, how about a cup of coffee while you wait”?  Just something.  Then, b.) after the excruciating wait without any acknowledgment  of Hal’s presence, the first words out of the SA’s mouth was “what can I do for you today”?  Come on.  Where was the “I apologize for the wait Hal we just became consumed with a lot of deadline stuff and although it did, it should not have taken  precedence  over your importance in being here.  How may I serve you today”?  “Hey  Hal, could I offer you a cup of coffee”?   OK, maybe that could be tough for the average SA to say, but give me a break here, if these guys are treating  a dealer’s ‘buddy’ this way how are they treating Tom, Dick and Harry?  Hal spent $872.00 that day and the store never knew how close they came to giving that money to their number one competitor right down the street.

Don’t just expect results – inspect how to achieve better results.  Recently, I have been  working with service departments showing them how to communicate, handle objections, and up sell their customers using new professionally designed techniques.  When asked, there was not one Service Advisor who had been through any of these selling processes.  They essentially dwarfed into order takers.  “Ok, I’ll get your oil changed.  It will be about 45 minutes are the keys in it”?  Much to my surprise, none of the managers had ever experienced a leadership training workshop either.   Blind leading the blind.   After some attention through training the SA’s each experienced a .2 to .4 increase per RO.  But here is the key;  the stores that had disciplined leadership in place held steady these increases.  Yet , as expected,  the stores who had order taker mentality management in place slowly retreated back to previous numbers.  No inspection.  Once you stop showing care for your people they stop caring as well and usually get by on as little as possible.   The first stores were given attention daily and felt valued thus, productivity went and stayed up.

If you would like a few more examples as to where you can look and how you can achieve an improved inspection process to yield better results, just send me an email requesting them and I will be happy to get them out to you.

Keep Inspecting for a Better Expectation!