Keeping Your Business Going: The Only Good Inspection is a Surprise Inspection

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure things are as they appear to be
  • Build a culture of full accountability


While the title says it all, it is worth repeating: “The only good inspection is a surprise inspection.”

While this seems to be straightforward, and at first glance might appear that no additional explanation is necessary, as with most approaches to business there are a number of common pitfalls associated with this sentiment that must be accounted for.

Let’s take a look at some of the more pertinent ones.

The only way to understand if things are as they truly appear to be within your business is to somehow measure what is actually happening on a day-to day basis. If our intent is to look for ways to verify and validate our processes, while looking for ways to make improvement, then we are on solid ground.

Most businesses have processes in place for each of the various disciplines to implement (i.e., the sales process, the engineering process, the product development process, the accounting process, etc.). But just how can we measure if these processes are actually being implemented and if they are also delivering the results needed?

A surprise inspection is without a doubt one of the most certain ways of seeing what is actually happening day in and day out.  A good analogy from our high school days might help to explain this effect…

Did you ever have a teacher employ the use of a pop quiz to test the progress of the class? They have the basic characteristics of being unannounced, implemented with zero notice with no chance to amend or prepare any work. What you see is what you get. What you have been doing (or not doing) up to this point will become blatantly (and sometimes painfully) obvious. This is the real value of such an exercise. You will see firsthand exactly what is or is not happening in your business.

For such a practice to have the intended effect, it needs to be a part of your ongoing corporate culture.  It needs to be communicated with both clarity and consistency to the point that all employees understand that it is a part of the business and every person in the company, including the executive level, is subject to a surprise inspetion at any time on any day.  They key here is to take the time to indoctrinate your team with both the reason and the value of such a policy.

Failure to communicate the need with consistency and clarity will most assuredly cause the policy to fail. People will feel that you inherently don’t trust them to the job for which they were hired. If not communicated properly early and often, they will feel you are simply looking to find fault and have it in for them.

If, however, you take the time to explain that this is one of the most accurate ways to test the value and the success of policies that are in place, and it is one of the surest ways to measure the progress and improve the development of the company, they will be far more likely to buy into the need and the value. No matter how exemplary an employee’s performance might be, having an occasional spot check done by qualified personnel will help to spot areas for improvement to the processes. Sometimes, flaws in the process will be identified and some processes may have to be altered or outright nixed because they aren’t working.

The endgame here is this: For any company to excel and achieve continual improvement upon existing processes, it is absolutely critical to know what is being implemented and what is or is not delivering intended results. An inspection that is a scheduled or announced ahead of time will tend to provide results that are often skewed and not a snapshot of reality, and the differences between the two can often be the difference between success and failure.

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