Inspections Welcome

· December 3, 2014

title: Inspections welcome author: Marcus Hammarberg tags:

  • Lean
  • Life of a consultant
  • Kanban
  • Agile

I’ve just come back from a vacation in Bali. Due to some fortunate overbookings we ended up in a villa that was an oasis of tranquility and luxury. By far the nicest place I’ve ever seen, including the room I stayed in for Agile Singapore. The 3-day stay flew by but was a blessing for my soul.

Our villa

The villa was in an area of other villas in the same class together with some upper-class hotels. All of them were boasting their luxury, their services, and their capacity. Some had stars on them (I don’t really know what those mean though).

I sat in our car on the way to the beach and we passed one hotel that looked small but very nice indeed. On the wall, nothing was said about their services, no stars or anything like that. Just a simple, but big, sign that said:

Inspections welcome!

I like this approach very much. It’s open and friendly but at the same time states a quality awareness and pride about our work.

It reminds me of one of the many points made in the excellent Turn the Ship Around book, by David Marquet, namely “Embrace the inspectors”. In the book, they changed their mindset about the people to do the inspections from dreading (and maybe even despising them) to instead starting to ask them questions to learn from them and their experiences from inspecting other submarines. In short: they turned the “brrr inspection on Monday”-feeling to “Yah! Monday is learning new stuff”-feeling.

We have seen this a lot in the agile community of late, early releases, A/B testing to act on feedback given (but do we really act on it?) so this is not news.

In my recent work, I’ve been in another business (Hospitals) and here inspections are first of all very very important (could put you out of business). From that follows that we dread the inspections and try to avoid them as long as possible. Which of course creates more work in preparing them.

In one instance, once the inspection was over, the entire hospital took a big breath of relief. So much tension gone. My first reaction was: “Let’s do it again tomorrow”.

Or at least: what if they could come back any time and do another inspection? Like tomorrow? Or the day after that? How would we change our behavior?

Because the quality and attention given during the inspection was sensational. Really really good. Some of it has stayed but not all of it. So the improvement was more like a spike than a gradual improvement over time.

But if the inspectors came back without us knowing… we would have to be better all the time.

Also - what do we do with the feedback we got from the inspection? Are we “Phew - that’s OVER! Thank God!” or do we immediately start acting on the things that we had to improve - longing to do better.

This is not costly. It’s all in our mind. It doesn’t take much but can the long-lasting effects can change our company culture for the better, forever.

Do I dread the inspectors? Do I have “Inspection welcome”-sign on my work, services, and behavior? If I did - how would that change me, and the way people see me?

PS Btw - inspections are welcome in the comments below or by leaving feedback.

Twitter, Facebook