Getting things done – Expect then Inspect

Okay so as leader, you have shared your vision for your company or department with those who work for you.  They understand where you are going. You have done a good job of helping them see where they fit in the overall scheme of things. Now what?

Well, now it gets a little more complicated as you move from a general view of where you are going into something more specific.  And that means working with each person to establish exactly what they are expected to accomplish.

Here are some ideas on what you will need to do to be clear about that.  And you will need to be clear if you want good results.

1. Assess each person’s capability in relation to company goals.  In other words, what can each person realistically contribute now?  Is there a gap between what they can do currently and what you need them to do?

2.Consider the gaps and then take the time to understand what each person will need to fill them.  Some people may need training.  Some people may need resources.  Some people may need you to address obstacles that get in the way of their ability to meet the challenge you set for them

3. Set and agree on realistic goals This means that you will agree to provide the appropriate conditions (see #2) for them to perform optimally and they will agree to complete the activities and projects required to help everyone move toward accomplishing the organizational, company or departmental goals.  Be specific.  Ensure you both have the same understanding of what is to be done.

4. Set reasonable time parameters for completing tasks and projects. Having a time frame for completing the work ensures that it doesn’t start to drift away from you and lose the clarity you need to be able to see exactly what you are accomplishing overall.

5. Inspect what you expect. Of all the points raised here, this one is the most important.  If you fail to follow up, the work you do in setting goals and gaining agreement becomes merely an academic exercise without connection to anything of substance.   And when that happens, people begin to look at the whole process with a certain cynicism that undermines the value of the process and all of the time you take to implement it.  Not only that, but you run a very real risk of failing to accomplish what you set out to do.  And that would be a shame.

What is your biggest challenge in setting expectations for others?

What do you do to meet it?



Filed under Establishing Direction

3 responses to “Getting things done – Expect then Inspect

  1. When you say “inspect what you expect” I think of the traditional once a year objectives setting process followed by the once a year – hmmm forgot all about those followed by celebration of how great you did and fabulous justification for what you didn’t get to. It is so important to “inspect what you expect” along the way. Why is it that the minute we institutionalize a process like objective setting and performance assessment common sense seems to go out the window?

    Sometimes my biggest challenge is getting my clients to do with their people what they pay me to do for them – hold them accountable!

    You also remind me that I really need to start using pictures. They really make a difference!

  2. prissyperfection

    Yes, the whole performance assessment thing has become something we love to hate. And that’s because so many people do it badly.
    @David Zinger put up a video yesterday which showed employees being given a chance to have a performance review or a kick in the pants. Well of course you can guess which one they chose!
    But to me, it only makes sense, for everyone if you know what is expected. Guessing sucks the energy out of everything. And you rarely get the supreme satisfaction of knowing that when you exceed expectations it is well earned and cause for celebration!

    Thanks for you comments Susan 🙂

  3. I once worked for a guy who was an nuclear submarine captain in his previous life. In the Navy, this is known as “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” Good leaders inspect. Not everything, and not all the time. But enough that their people know that it could happen at some point in time. This is crucial in the operations side of IT, especially, where a single missed expectation can cripple your company.

    Nice post, with good advice. My take on this is at

    Susan, as always, thanks for sharing another great blog!

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