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Episode 10

Episode 10: Prepare for Inspection: What Gets Inspected, Gets Done Right

Description

Inspection leads to correction. Just as equipment, facilities, vehicles, or personnel require inspection in the forces, business can also benefit from these quality assurance practices. In this episode of Veteran Led, John Berry discusses how inspection can ensure accuracy and credibility throughout a company. John will delve into the various ways in which regular inspection can help identify and rectify errors, improve processes, and maintain high standards of performance.

Transcript

Welcome fellow veterans. From the tip of the spear to in the rear with the gear, I went from active-duty Infantry to reserve-component logistician. I’m your host, CEO, entrepreneur, trial lawyer, and Lieutenant Colonel Retired, John Berry. The military lessons that I learned helped me grow an eight-figure business that has maintained consistent annual double-digit growth, landing on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in America every year for the past seven years, and has allowed me to continue to serve America’s heroes. 
 
Welcome to Episode 10, Prepare for Inspection: What Gets Inspected, Gets Done Right 
 
If you’re now a civilian leader and you don’t have a TACSOP, a great book for you to read is “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. Checklists can be used to simplify the inspection process, and I will tell you that checklists are key when you’re inspecting your data. And data is the key ingredient in your decision-making process. You have to make sure that your data is clean, and that means you’ve got to inspect it regularly. Inaccurate and untimely data can be worse than useless, it can be misleading.  
 
One example of this is how we run our teams. We run our teams off of scorecards and scoreboards. Scorecards is the data that we send to our team members to let them know whether they’re meeting their metrics, their KPIs. And the scoreboards are what we post publicly to let the team know what their scores are against their goals, but also against other teams. And we love competition, we have friendly competition. And competition I believe is key to running a successful business. And the reason why is because you want team members who know what it’s like to win and want to win. 
 
So, we love former athletes and veterans, but here’s the thing, they also got to know how to lose, right? Because they need to understand that if they lose today, it doesn’t mean they can’t win tomorrow. And you don’t know whether you win or lose unless you’re keeping score. So, we love to keep score. To me, the worst thing you can do to a team member is to wait until the end of the quarter or the end of the year to tell them they’re not performing. Our team members know whether they’re performing every single day because we provide them with data showing them what happened.  
 
Now, one of the downfalls is if you do not inspect your data, and you push it out to the team, you as a leader will lose credibility on bad data. And this happened to me several times. When we first started pushing out the weekly scorecards, we’d have a team member come to us named Joe, and Joe would say, “Hey, on Wednesday, it says here that I created 12 widgets. That’s not true. I created 15. Your data is wrong.” And so, we’d go back and check and sure enough, the data was wrong. There was an issue. And we would have to fix that immediately to maintain credibility as a leadership team. 
 
And so, we put out to the entire team, look, these are the numbers we have. If we are wrong or our data is in any way wrong, please, please come to us so that we can fix it. And so, we’re very open about the fact that we wanted clean data, we wanted accurate data, and if we were wrong, we had no problem with a team member coming to us and saying, “You’re wrong.” 
 
We’ll just go back to Joe again. Joe would get his weekly scorecard that would have all of his key metrics, usually five of them, listed by day, so Joe knew every day whether he won or whether he lost. And then in our non client facing areas, just, just where the team was, we had big scoreboards where it had the metrics of team members so they could compete against each other. And your A players love that. They love to see how they stack up against other team members. The people on the bottom, they don’t like that so much. And I would always tell my team members too, that we only are going to list the top 10. And it’s not a problem for me if you’re not one of the top 10, but it is a problem for me if you don’t have a problem not being on the top 10. If you don’t want to be one of the best, then that is a problem for me because I want team members who want to improve, who rise to the level of play of the entire team.  
 
So, let’s go back to Joe. So, we would send Joe the weekly scorecards and during his quarterly review, we’d talk with Joe about his numbers and metrics. “Joe, how do you think you’re doing?” “Oh, I’m doing well.” “On a scale of 8 to 10, Joe, how are you doing?” “I am a solid 8.” “Okay, Joe, have you been looking at your scorecards?” Joe says, “Yeah, I’ve been looking at them, you know, glancing them over every week.” “Okay, Joe, I want you to look at your last four scorecards. I’m just going to sit here while you do that.” So, Joe logs on, looks through his scorecards. “Okay, Joe, you’ve looked at your scorecards the past four weeks and I looked at them too. Where do you think you are?” Joe says, “Eh, I’m probably a five.” No, Joe, you’re a two, right? And this is where, you know, Joe wasn’t looking at his scorecards and that is why the scoreboards became important because it’s one thing to send them to the individual team members, but when it’s publicly posted for the rest of your team to see, there’s some accountability there. 
 
And by the way, when we started publicly posting the scoreboards, we found out even quicker that our data was not right. If people who are competing all of a sudden see a flaw in the data, they’re going to come to you. So once again, you need to inspect your data. You don’t want your team members to come to you, but you also want them to feel that they can come to you if there’s a problem with the data. To say that better, you want your data to be so clean and so perfect that if you display it to the entire company, no one will question that it’s right.  
 
As a platoon leader, when we had someone who would give up an inaccurate report, they’d call that false reporting. Remember, we’d have to give a daily accountability report where we talk about whether we had all of our sensitive items and if someone said they all their sensitive items and personnel were accounted for, and they were wrong, they called that a false report because the leader provided false information. In the military, when it came to accountability, data was key, and people still screwed it up, and we still got false reports, not frequently, but it still happened.  
 
Now, as you probably heard from the intro to this podcast, I went from the tip of the spear active-duty Infantry to in the rear with a gear. I was logistician. I was a reserve component. And one thing I learned from being in both places is that if you are in the rear with the gear, the way you can help the warfighter is to push, not pull. And what I mean by that is I would push the logistics packages forward and not wait for them to pull it from me because I wanted to make sure that whoever was fighting on the front lines of the battle had everything they needed, and I didn’t want them to feel like they had to pull it from me. 
 
And so, one of the difficult things that we do in the civilian world is we say, “Hey, uh, go ahead and log on and then you can see if the data is correct.” Like no, no one’s going to log on to anything, right? If their main job, if they’re a lawyer or they’re an accountant and they’re doing something, they don’t want to log on to another system to check your data for accuracy. The best way to do it is to push it out to them, push it out in graphs and emails, push that data to them, make it easy for them to get to it. Do not make them pull it because if they have to pull it, it’s not going to happen.  
 
And the other thing I learned, and it’s very similar to push don’t pull, but it’s, don’t just tell them it’s out there. I can remember, the Army AKO share drive, right? This was where ideas and projects went to die. And what would happen is someone would say, “Well, I’ve got a PowerPoint up there we’re all working on, we’re going to collaborate. It’s on the share drive.” And so, you’d go to the share drive, and you could never find anything just because the information wasn’t organized. So, the running joke was always, if you couldn’t find something, someone would say, “Oh yeah, that project’s done. It’s in the share drive, right?” Because nobody could find anything in a share drive.  
 
So once again, if you want someone to help you inspect to ensure that your data is correct, send it to them, send it to them in an email, send it to them on a piece of paper, but don’t make them log onto a system to get it. You log on, you get it, and you push it out to them because that makes all the difference in the world.  
 
I also want to take time to talk about what we should inspect besides data. Think back to the military, and I think back to every rucksack, every Humvee, every Bradley Fighting Vehicle had a load plan. And the reason for that was because if something happened to a team member, we could pick up and move on seamlessly. So, if the assistant gunner went down, someone could grab his rucksack and know exactly where the ammo was located, know where the MREs were located, and could move on with the mission. Same thing for the Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The dismounts could, could jump out, come back, and everything was supposed to be loaded per plan. Same thing in the Humvees.  
 
Now, when we talk about our inspections as civilians, I think about process. We absolutely have to inspect our process. Number one, to make sure it’s working, but number two, to make sure that people are following it. And I can tell you that generally, we have done a great job of developing processes. Where I have failed time and time again, is inspecting them frequently enough to ensure that we are following them. 
 
And I can think of a problem we had with one of our sales funnels, where it’s like, wait a minute, we’ve got all these clients who want to sign up and we’re not signing them up and it’s going up on weeks now, what’s going on? So, I went back, and I looked at the written process. All three leaders had a different process, and therein lied the failure. The problem fell on me because I, as a leader, failed to ensure that they were trained, and in their training, they had reviewed the process document, and not only looked at it, but actually talked through it and got certified on it. So big failure on my part.  
 
The other thing that you have to inspect as leader is your vendors. Now you probably remember in the military the Halliburton’s, the KBRs, the, the, the Raytheon’s. And then we go to Iraq and Afghanistan and there’s all sorts of vendors everywhere from different countries, and we would find that some of the vendors did phenomenal work. Some of them did horrible work, right? But as a leader, we were responsible for inspecting that work.  
 
Now, same thing happens in the civilian world. You can hire vendors and some of them are very well-meaning vendors, but if they don’t get your guidance, they’re going to fail. And some of them are highly accomplished and they’ll start a project, but if you’re not inspecting it and giving them feedback, they’re not going to get you the result that they promised you. And I know it’s easy to say, “Wait a minute, I hired them for this. Here was the scope of work. Uh, we were very clear in it.” Yeah, that’s true. But just because you told them how you wanted the house built and what color you wanted painted, that doesn’t mean that they’re going to build everything exactly the way you want it. And we found that out the hard way. We had to go through in detail with vendors. So, if you hire a vendor, your job is to not only inspect that they’re hitting all the milestones in a timely manner, that they are doing things to standard, but that they’re doing things the way that you want them done because despite, look, I’m a lawyer, and despite how well written a plan can be, I will tell you that without looking at it as it develops, you’re going to run into communication issues. And sometimes those result in lawsuits and you can avoid all that if you just inspect what the vendor is doing and give them timely feedback and guidance.  
 
The third thing you got to inspect is your policies and procedures. First, policies and procedures get outdated very quickly. Laws change, guidance changes, the industry changes. So, your policies need to change. 
 
Let me give an example. Now we have a lot of remote workers. Before our remote work policies were pretty vague. Now our remote work policies are tight. And if someone’s going to work remote, we want to know that they have fast enough internet speed, that they have a workstation set up, that they have privacy, that they have all the things we need. And so, we can do things like test their internet speed. We can look at their IP address from where the work is getting done. We can have them send a photo of their workstation so we can ensure that they have an adequate workstation to get the work done. These are all parts of inspections from policies and procedures that didn’t exist prior to COVID. 
 
So, as we’ve gone through changes in our environment, we’ve had to update our policies and procedures. It’s no different in the military, we focus on our current operating environment and depending on whether you’re in garrison, or whether you are on a deployment, your policies and procedures in some areas are going to differ. 
 
I love the TOW missile system for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, right? TOW is the Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided, heavy anti-tank missile system. And there was a new format that they had that was going to be called the Fire and Forget and it didn’t work, and they ended up pulling it after a few years, but the same thing with your policies and procedures. You may put something in place, and it may be a great idea when you come up with it, but as you put into practice, it may not work. And we’ve had that happen. We’ve put together a lot of procedures, procedures for building documents, procedures for hiring people where we noticed that our hiring funnel seemed like a great idea, but everybody was getting stuck at one point in the funnel, and they weren’t getting past it, and we realized that we had created our hiring funnel wrong, which was eliminating a lot of great candidates, simply because we had requirements that we thought, at the time, would give us better candidates, but really all it did was just tighten the funnel and make it too narrow. 
 
It’s very similar to the military, right? Where they said, well, we have these high standards, and our problem now is we have to lower the physical fitness standards. We have to lower the ASVAB standards. We have to do all these things to ensure that we can get qualified members into our military because physical fitness standards have changed over time. 
 
Now, once again, I’m not saying lower your standards. I’m not saying that at all. But what I am saying is, sometimes the procedures that you’re using to recruit team members, for marketing, for sales, even for IT, you need to look at those from time to time and determine whether they are actually working. You need to inspect them and make sure that they’re being followed.  
 
And finally, don’t have so much pride in the procedure if you developed it, that you’re not willing to completely destroy it. Like all good authors, we have to be willing to kill our darlings. It is the same way with our policies and procedures. Look, we have to be willing to inspect those and if they’re not helping the team get where it needs to go, if they’re not going to get us to our mission, if they’re not going to move the needle, we have to adjust them or eliminate them.  
 
Same thing with vendors. If we inspect those vendors and, and look, we’re giving them regular feedback and we’re helping them get to where they need to be, we’re not abdicating our responsibility, we’re being a partner with our vendors and they’re not getting there, we got to let them go.  
 
And finally, the same thing for our processes. We love developing our processes. We believe they’re going to work. But when they don’t work and we’re inspecting them and we realize, yes, they’re being followed and they’re still not working, then as leaders, we have to fix our processes.  
 
And these are all things we learn by doing regular inspections. If you don’t inspect, you’re never going to know when your processes don’t work or aren’t being followed. You’re never going to know whether you have quality vendors or not. And you’re never going to know whether your policies and procedures are being followed and whether they are appropriate. 
 
Up till now, we’ve talked about internal inspections, but I want to talk about some of those outward facing inspections that are important. And the first one starts with you as the leader. I can remember showing up, first time I met my platoon sergeant, and my BDUs were not starched and pressed, my boots were not spit-shined, and my attitude was, hey, I’m a field leader, I’m not a garrison leader. I’m not a toy soldier. I’m a warrior. And my platoon sergeant said, “Yeah, maybe, but here’s the thing, we’re in garrison now so you will have a pressed uniform and shined boots.” And he was right. Look, as the Lieutenant, I looked like a dirt bag.  
 
And I know right now it’s great to feel like we’re casual and we can wear hoodies to the office, but I will tell you that when an individual hires you to do a job, what you wear matters, they judge you based on appearance long before a word comes out of your mouth. Your appearance matters and, as a leader, you need to look the part, look crisp, be energetic, be the part. Help them understand who you are before one word comes out of your mouth. 
 
Also, online and print. And I’ve seen a lot of leaders fail where, there are some people that I know and greatly respected at the top of their field, but their websites make them look like garbage. They have a picture from 20 years ago. Their bio is incomplete. They haven’t listed any accomplishments for the past eight years, and yet they’re wondering why people won’t hire them. Well, I’ll tell you why they won’t hire you. It’s because they’re checking you out online. And we know this now. We know that everybody has access to all of your profiles on the internet, and they’re not just going to go look at your website. They’re going to go to your social media. They’re going to read your online reviews and you have not only the ability, but the responsibility to ensure that that is pristine. 
 
If you provide a great experience for a client, you certainly want to ask for review. If you have an accomplishment or if you achieve something great, you accomplish something, put it on the site, put it on your bio, ensure that your digital presence is inspection-ready because the public is inspecting you. They are looking at your bio. They’re looking at your social media. They are looking at your reviews. They are judging you and they are judging you in an instant. They see you and they make a decision. You must inspect your digital presence because all your potential buyers are already inspecting it. And even worse, if you’re the head of the company, they’re judging the entire company based on your appearance. 
 
It doesn’t matter what you did yesterday. You are always judged by who you are today and inspections, ferret that out. Inspections are your tools to ensure that you achieve greatness day after day, after day, after day. Anybody can win one game. The key is to win every single day. And if you don’t have a system in place to inspect your data, to inspect your systems, to inspect your people, you will never get there. 
 
Prepare for Inspection After Action Review: Number 1. You as the leader decide what to inspect. Number 2. It’s your responsibility as the leader to make sure your team understands the standard. Number 3. The inspections tell you whether your team is following the plan or following the standards you’ve set in your vision. 
 
Three Down: If your standards are not clear, it’s your fault, and you’ll find that out during the inspection. Number 2. If your data is not accurate, it’s your fault, and you’ll find that out during the inspection. Number 3. If you need to update your systems, it’s your fault, and you’re going to find that out when you conduct your inspections. 
 
Thank you for joining us today on Veteran Led, where we pursue our mission of promoting veteran leadership in business, strengthening the veteran community, and getting veterans all of the benefits that they earned. If you know a leader who should be on the Veteran Led podcast, report to our online community by searching @veteranled on your favorite social channels and posting in the comments. We want to hear how your military challenges prepared you to lead your industry or community, and we will let the world know. And of course, hit subscribe and join me next time on Veteran Led. 
 

Berry Law

The attorneys at Berry Law are dedicated to helping injured Veterans. With extensive experience working with VA disability claims, Berry Law can help you with your disability appeals.

This material is for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between the Firm and the reader, and does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and the contents of this blog are not a substitute for legal counsel.

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