Checking Your Work: Attentiveness to Detail as a New Year Initiative

Restoring Success

January 6, 2022

It may be predictable, but there is something about a new year that inspires goal setting, resolutions and fresh visions. I have a personal list of things I plan to do to further develop myself in different ways: improving my effectiveness, efficiency and being more organized to name just a few.

The story of Santa, a toilet and a wrong phone number was told in “He’s Making a List” and emphasized the importance of “checking your work” with some tips for success.

My passion for “checking your work” on an individual and company level comes from the consequences I have observed, and experiences I have had, when this discipline is lacking. The concept applies to both our individual work habits and our company’s operational approach. We all make mistakes and even our best efforts may lead to errors.

We recently had a piece go out with a misspelled word. It was checked at least five times and our director of training operations proofs by reading things backwards to avoid missing a misspelled word. As a team, we missed it; it happens. Next, we examined the matter and developed our approach to checking. The program where the word resided was lacking editing tools; going forward, we will spell check in a different program with better editing capabilities.

Why such a fuss over one word? It is a reflection on our attention to detail. We are trainers and believe in setting an example in all we do. Is it possible that the 100 people who saw this error will think less of us? In the years of observing the fallout of not “checking your work” and being a designated checker, there seems to be a pattern of two possibilities: 1) gaining an understanding of how something could have been missed, versus 2) what seems to be a lack of care.

If you are still searching for a personal or companywide new year initiative, consider “checking your work.” Making progress on this can bring about great rewards. It is a very specific behavior of people who are highly conscientious, a trait consistently tied to positive performance. It is something that applies to all in the organization and can directly impact the credibility, effectiveness, efficiency and quality of service to others.

In addition to some of the tips offered in “He’s Making a List,” the following are considerations for the “check your work” initiatives in your organization:

  • Check your own work: It starts with ourselves. Whether rereading an email or examining our craftsmanship, we should establish habits to check our work, even if someone else will be reviewing it. Identify it as an important practice in our day-to-day work and coach those who may need to improve.
  • Provide training: Include steps that address “checking your work” during training. Do not assume. At Restoration Technical Institute, we incorporate this as a step in our training curriculum.
  • Measure and document outcomes: Whether in a standard of care, best practice or standard operating procedure, having a formalized process for certain types of work that includes a defined inspection and/or testing with supporting documentation of the outcome will give protection, as well as add to the credibility of the services delivered.
  • Be open to constructive feedback: It is important that when we check each other’s work and mistakes are made, identified and corrected, the spirit is positive. Avoid a potential debacle and treat it as an opportunity to do something better in the future.
  • Find a buddy: It is great to have buddies in the company to “check” everything from an estimate to a drywall job when you need fresh eyes.
  • Set clearly defined company expectations: It is difficult to check certain types of work without a clearly defined and communicated expectation. These expectations can be converted into checklists and quality control documents.
  • Establish clear assignment of responsibility: As a company, employ “checking” as a responsibility of a designated individual. For example, the “lead” on the job might be held responsible for checking the job site before leaving. Or, the marketing manager could be assigned the responsibility to check a mass email before it is distributed.
  • Formalized quality control processes and forms: There are certain tasks and/or job types that are suited for a formal quality control process with established control points. This provides consistency and is particularly helpful when there are many variables and/or details. Forms also provide documentation.

The Restoration Technical Institute is offering free access, through the end of January 2022, to our Audits, Inspections & Assessing course, designed to provide ideas and inspiration regarding inspecting, measuring outcomes and tools to help.

May “checking your work” bring you, the team and your company much Restoring Success.

Originally published at randrmagonline.com

Roll it Uphill: A Lesson in Leadership and Accountability

Photo courtesy: Restoration Technical Institute

Lisa Lavender, M.T.R., M.F.S.R., M.W.R.

In many cases, when leaders notice dysfunction, something goes wrong or someone does not meet an expectation, it is necessary to resist the blame game and begin by “rolling it uphill.”

The objective is to bring about improvement and/or desired results. We may have all been guilty, at one time or another, of proclaiming:

  • “They just don’t care!”
  • “They don’t know what they are doing!”
  • “They are just lazy!”

It is unproductive and will not lead to improvements that are desired.

A core responsibility of leadership is that one must lead the way, extend trust to others and set everyone up for success. When this approach is part of an organization’s culture, it becomes contagious.  Existing and budding leaders will take the lead, and a theme of continuous improvement will flourish.

The warehouse is a mess. There is a new and very expensive piece of equipment randomly located amidst other equipment, boxes, trash, cords…

Rolling it uphill requires that before we blame the team for being careless or sloppy, we look in the mirror and ask ourselves:

  • Does the new piece of equipment have a place where it belongs?
  • Did the new place where it belongs get communicated to the team?
  • Does everything else have a clearly designated space where it belongs?
  • Do you have a place/space for it?
  • Based on the availability of space to store the piece, might it have been better to rent it?

The acquisition and deployment, including its storage location, must be deliberate. It is not productive to blame a technician for not taking proper care of it if leadership did not consider a storage location for the piece of new equipment prior to its arrival. This example helps illustrate the importance of rolling it uphill and discovering the root causes of issues.

Leaders set others up for success, and they solve problems. Leadership is a behavior and not a title; great leaders seem to naturally roll it uphill.

Roll it Uphill Mindset: 

  • Abandon the notion of, “They don’t care” or “They are lazy.” Don’t even think it. It will ooze out of you. Start with the premise that everyone in the organization wants to succeed and cares about the mission. If you sense that they don’t, roll that uphill and ask yourself how you can better engage them. If it works out that they do not engage and invest in their career, it will work itself out.
  • Believe that the most important element of your job is to inspire greatness and do everything you can to help others succeed. If the new piece of equipment has a designated location and it is effectively communicated, you will be surprised how consistently it will get put away in its designated location.
  • Be humble, objective and move past your emotions. My father, who has mentored many in our company and has helped them develop leadership skills, says it best. It is normal to have an emotional reaction to something but, “You must quickly move past your emotions and get down to business; problem solve.”
  • You want others to solve problems, lead the way, and help others succeed. You want someone to organize the warehouse and find a place for everything. Guess where it starts. With you. The roll-it-uphill mindset will be infectious. Others will start doing it…

Function Analysis Worksheet

Download the Function Analysis Worksheet

Once the mindset is adopted, it is time to lead the way on improvements. It begins by Getting to the ROOT of the Problem. The following offers a simple framework that may help you “roll it uphill,” get to the root and develop an action plan. Simply define the function and apply the following in order:

  1. Is there a defined expectation? A defined expectation could come in many forms: Policy, SOP, best practice, job description, etc. If the answer is “no,” stop here and define the expectation.
  2. Who is responsible? If there is nobody responsible for the function, and/or the defined expectation, this will be a problem. Address it by clearly defining responsibility.
  3. Does the person responsible know the clearly defined expectation? You may be surprised how many issues stem from a crack in the system when a clearly defined expectation was not effectively communicated to the person responsible.
  4. Is there consistent accountability? From my own experience, the functions that consistently meet expectations are the ones that are given consistent attention, not to be confused with time and energy. At times I struggle with tacit approval, I justify it as a time constraint. However, I know based on results this is a leading cause for slippage. You should resist not addressing issues that should be, as doing so will have consequences. Consistency is the key.
  5. Tools and Skills: Are the tools and skills available to those responsible to have the expectations met?
  6. Action Plan: Now that you worked through steps one through five, you may have identified where the breakdown exists and can put together an action plan.

May “rolling it uphill” bring you much continued Restoring Success.

Originally published in R and R Magazine

The Hiring Challenge and What Must Be Done

employee management

“Every problem is an opportunity in disguise.” ― John Adams

Today, the hiring challenge is consistently one of the biggest strains on everyone in the industry. There is no crystal ball as to how long this challenge will exist in both the short and long term. As we continue to try everything to overcome the hiring challenges and labor shortage, we must carefully balance our focus and resources on other areas that may help us attract and retain talent. It is equally important to also focus on optimal use and management of existing resources. The following are three key areas to address:

  1. Onboarding:  After investing our resources and efforts in finding a new person, we must have a deliberate and effective onboarding system. There are a variety of tools, resources and inspiration available to review and formalize the onboarding process. In addition to Are you On Board with Employee Onboarding, there are a many great articles and videos in the R&R vault that can give you and your team the tools to develop or retool your WOW-boarding program.
    1. WOW-Boarding:  Make the onboarding experience amazing so the new hire will talk about the experience and possibly influence others to apply. Onboarding is a reflection on the company, its values, and the opportunities within. It is not unlike a first impression with a customer. We must be organized and have a plan to make a wow impression on our new hire.
      • Give them everything they need to succeed and grow in their new career.
    2. Written Plan: Make sure the onboarding process is documented so the team can engage and execute. The new hire will know what to expect as the tone is set for a solid beginning.
    3. Onboarding Committee and Onboarding Officers: Engage the team in the concept of WOW-boarding and take the process to a higher level.
      • Get creative.
      • Designate and train team members to be onboarding officers.
      • Ensure onboarding officers are consistently positive and engaged in the mission, purpose and values of the company.
      • Define the period that the new-hire spends with a designated onboarding officer.
  2. Employee Retention and Morale: Many companies benefit from employees who step up, are highly engaged, and work hard to keep things running and serving the customers in the midst of this labor shortage. However, strained human resources can be a stress inducer for many on the team. It is critical that we exercise care and give our attention to protect them from burnout; keep their sprits high.
    1. Burnout in the Restoration Industry Part 1, by Dr. Jake Avila and Dr. Randy Rapp, explains the dimensions of burnout and the findings of their 2019 study, which will give insight and understanding to the threat.
    2. We must be diligent on keeping a pulse on team morale. Not only are employees likely experiencing increase stress at work, but the world we live in also has many real dynamics and pressures that everyone will handle and process differently.
  3. Capacity and Productivity: Increasing capacity and improving productivity are as important as ever in the face of a labor shortage, and they aren’t impossible.
    1. In 7 Areas Restoration Companies Can Reduce or Eliminate Waste, Tim Hull presents seven categories of actionable areas that can improve the use of your resources. Upon execution of his tips for waste reduction/elimination, you can increase capacity and improve the bottom line.
    2. In Burnout in the Restoration Industry: Managing Workload | Part 2, methods for controlling and expanding capacity are explored. It should be noted that when workload exceeds capacity, managing customer expectations becomes of the highest importance.
    3. In Burnout in the Restoration Industry: Effective Workload Management | Part 3, there is a variety of approaches for managing each individual’s workload and potentially expanding it. Pay particular attention to the opportunity to evaluate the field staff’s functions, workflows and duties. Also consider adjusting, restructuring or reassigning certain functions to office/administrative staff to allow for expanded capacity of skilled team members in the field.
    4. Investing in the right technology, tools and supplies is of particular importance.  Properly deployed, everything from mops to saws may yield significant gains in efficiency and productivity.

These three key areas of focus may help overcome the challenges of today, but may also present opportunity for long-term improvements that will serve your company and team well when the next challenge arises.

I share with you what started out as a plan to make everyone lunch and turned into a bit of a fun, lighthearted series of lessons on: employee morale, tools, efficiencies, quality, development and more. Check out our video, Lessons Learned from Making Peanut Butter and Jelly.

May you have much continued Restoring Success and find opportunities.