Are you inspecting what you are expecting?


Kim and I were walking through the mall because we had some time to kill. We headed into one of her favorite clothing stores and started to aimlessly walk around. As Kim was looking at a table of sweaters that were on sale, I noticed a metal utility cart with a simple cardboard sign. The title of the sign, $MAKER CART,  caught my attention.

I quickly read the sign, and I had several thoughts run through my mind.

  • Someone, presumably the manager, is trying to solve a problem (the cleanliness of the cart) with attaching a purpose (increasing sales) to it.
  • The sign evoked a sense of team. The words “we” and “let’s” screamed that it was everyone’s opportunity to be part of the solution.
  • The quality of the sign didn’t communicate excellence, but it was functional.
  • Bonus: I loved the red outline to accent the word thousands. It looked like something my 7-year-old daughter would do.

I am not sure exactly why, but I snapped a picture of the sign and shifted my attention back to our shopping adventure.

Kim picked up a sweater from the table with a $44.00 price tag attached. The sign on the table clearly stated that the sweaters were $17.99 and up. So what was the exact price? Was it $44.00? That is definitely not a bargain. Or was it mis-marked and it was actually $17.99, which is more of a bargain. Kim, without knowing I snapped a picture of the sign said to me, “I like the sweater, but I want to know how much it costs first.” We made our way from the back corner of the store all the way to the front of the store to enquire about the price for the blue sweater with a fox on it. (Yes, I was singing the song “What does the fox say?” the entire way up to the front of the store.) Before purchasing the sweater, Kim asked the nice sales associate what the price was for the sweater. Remember, the sign said “$17.99 and up”. Guess what the sweater rang up for?

Drumroll, please.


$13.00 – Really? I was excited for two reasons.  First, It was cheaper than I thought. I was anticipating a price between $17.99 and $44.00. Second, If Kim would have known that the sweaters were $13.00 she would probably have picked up two or three sweaters. Who doesn’t like a great sale!

As I stood there waiting for Kim to pay for the sweater, I thought about the picture that I snapped. I thought about the powerful message of the sign: Correct marketing sells the product. If we cannot find the sign, we lose thousands of dollars!

The manager had the right idea, but the execution of the idea failed. Why? As a leader you can have the right sign, with the right message, attached to the right vision and purpose, but if you don’t inspect what you expect, then the sign is worth approximately what the piece of cardboard is worth – $0.05. You can have written expectations, but if you don’t inspect what you expect, then the expectations are worthless. You can have a well thought out and executed training plan, but if you don’t inspect what you expect, then the training is worthless. You can have the most creative and memorable staff values, but if you don’t inspect what you expect, then the values are pointless.

What do you need to inspect today?

(By the way, what you discover might just shock you.)


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