Inspect What You Expect

May 19, 2014 8 Comments
Industry expert Allen F. Weitzel spent 45 seasons in the recreation field and was most recently safety and training manager at a California amusement park.

Industry expert Allen F. Weitzel spent 45 seasons in the recreation field and was most recently safety and training manager at a California amusement park.

 

By Allen F. Weitzel

 

This past holiday season, my wife and I visited an amusement facility that I previously managed.  The attraction advertised a display of artist-decorated holiday trees throughout the facility.  It was a night event featuring the trees, lights and decorations.

 

The Visit

 

I knew some of staff working at this facility, so I called for details about the holiday event.  They offered comp tickets.  It was a wonderful evening and we anticipated a beautiful facility.

 

What We Found

 

As we began the self-guided tour, the initial decorations and trees dazzled us.  The trees were lighted and also had spotlights aimed at them that highlighted the detailed ornaments.  As we continued, we realized that we could not see the details on many of the trees.  There were no spotlights on themThe tour was all in all very disappointing.  It could have been spectacular, as advertised, had the trees all be spotlighted correctly.  I am sure that some guests felt they had wasted their money on this event.

 

I took the liberty to send a “guest-eye view” shoppers’ report to the management.  A few days later, I received a phone call from a friend in management and we chatted.

 

In the report I indicated that only a few trees were spotlighted.  I shared with him that I thought the “wow” factor was missing with so few trees spotlighted and that the event was not as advertised.   I told him that we only saw about six of the 15 trees spotlighted.  He was shocked that my wife and I only discovered 15 of the trees when, in fact, there were 25 trees decorated and 23 of them were supposed to be illuminated by spotlights.  This was the second year for the event, and they had used additional trees and lighting to dazzle the guests.  We can only speculate that since many of the trees were not highlighted, the guests, ourselves included, walked right past some trees and did not notice them.

 

What Management Concluded

 

The manager said that the night before we had visited, they had offered a lights-out flashlight tour of the facility.  Some guests complained that the lighted trees distracted from the ambiance of the lights-out tour, so the tree lights were temporarily tuned off.  He assumed that the next night when we visited, not all of the spotlights were turned back on.  He also volunteered that a similar problem had occurred the year before.

 

Inspect What You Expect

 

The military uses a phrase called “Inspect What You Expect.”  Simply, in park management, it means to completely inspect your employees’ work and your operation before you open for business, and during operating hours.  When this facility moved from a routine daylight operation to a special event night operation, no one walked though the facility to make sure everything was in order with all the special event elements in place and working.  Since the same issue happened the year before, one would think that the same mistake would not have occurred again.

 

Nuances of Inspection

 

When employees know that their work will be checked, they are likely to do the work properly the first time.  If you are lax with inspections, employees will be lax with performance.  The manager on duty (MOD) should tour the facility before opening to the public to make sure the employees and the operation are ready.  Managers can delegate small sections of an inspection, but not the whole job.  For example, you can send a runner to check one or two facts or small areas, but the MOD (who is responsible for the entire operation and handles guest complaints) should inspect the whole facility.  This also applies to restaurant or gift store managers and their operations.

 

If you delegate the whole inspection to an employee because you are busy, then conduct another full inspection when you are free, or assign another qualified MOD to conduct the inspection for you.  If you are lacking sufficient qualified MODs, then train more.

 

 

Your customers deserve your best show.  As a MOD, you are expected to make sure the show is top notch and ready to go.  Never overlook the safety element of pre-opening and mid-day inspections.  Even if you are not worried about a pristine first impression for your guests, an uninspected, unsafe park hurts your pocketbook and reputation if someone is injured because equipment was not properly stored away.

 

Trusting Guests

 

Some facilities set up comment card stations around the property and rely only on guest observations to become aware of problems.  This is a sloppy practice.  Pre-opening and mid-day inspections are not “nice to have” functions, they are essential tasks.

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8 Comments to “Inspect What You Expect”
  1. Barbara Carmichael says:

    Thank you Allen. You are 100% correct in that when employees know you will inspect their work, they will almost always do it right the first time. This applies to nearly every industry.

    Thank you for another great article.

    Barbara Carmichael

    • Barbara, What a trooper! I do not think you have ever failed to read one of our blogs/articles. TAP Magazine and I both thank you. Most of what we share is pretty much common sense. The addendum point to the inspections message is that the boss does not need to be a drill sergeant to make sure all tasks are done well. Polite words should be used when conducting follow-ups, and compliments for a job well done are important, as well. I hope all is well in the insurance world. Best, always, Allen

  2. Mike Gilpatrick says:

    I am a former employee of Allen’s. It was my first job. I learned early on that no matter what task I was assigned that Allen would check to make sure that the task was completed properly and timely. Once I had his trust, he would lessen the number of inspections, but I always knew in the back of my mind he was there to make sure what ever it was I did was correct. This was an example I took to my profession in banking and helped me to be successful in my career. I always remembered to “inspect what I expected” in large part because of the teaching of Allen and his brother Warren. Great article!!!

    • Mike, Thanks for the kind words. You are correct. With the excellent employees we had, our inspections diminished as their skills grew. True, also, we never assumed everything was perfect; we double-checked. Our guest’s safety and enjoyment were critical to us and we did not want that compromised. The formula was simple: Work hard, have fun and provide great customer service. It was great that our employees embraced the same philosophies we practiced. I am proud that so many employees still stay in contact and have successfully used the business tools they learned, early on, throughout their careers. Again, Mike, thanks for supporting the message. Stay well, Allen

  3. Paul Warren says:

    Dear Mr. Allen:

    As always, I enjoyed your blog and in particular that catchy military
    phrase of “Inspect What You Expect.” Thanks, that’s an easy one
    to remember. I plan to teach it to my employees and staff.
    The idea of inspecting the facility on a regular basis is a good
    reminder.

    From seeing your blog picture and your use of military phrases,
    I take it you were in the military. Thank you for your service.

    Paul Warren

    • Dear Paul, Most managers worth their salt know that they should inspect. But the work piles up and lesser important tasks seem to turn into emergencies, so they cut corners by not following up on the basics. Or they trust a lesser-trained worker to conduct double-checks. It requires self-discipline and proper time management to make sure those checks are done. Thanks for the support of our blogs. I’m happy to hear that your workers gain some leadership skills, as well, from the knowledge that TAP Magazine provides. In closing, the Marines have a philosophy: Never assign a soldier with acute allergies to be your lone sniper! Thanks for reading out blogs. Best, Allen

  4. Brian Bareen says:

    Good article. You are really TOO KIND, but I admire your ability to address it in a nice way. As a consultant looking (as you did) from the outside in, I wouldn’t be that kind. I would have put the “spot light” on the ineptitude and carelessness of management. What appears to be missing is the attitude: “How can we make it better? Promote it better? Partner with other organizations for fundraising opportunities for them? Such as: each tree needs to be professionally photographed and promoted to the artists’ database, etc.” My guess is that the owners feel that something “new” is more important to broadcast than the professional execution of current programs. Nice job on the lessons learned. -Brian

    • Brian, Thanks for checking in on our TAP management blog. I believe that we have every wise readers and they understand the point I was making without hitting anyone over the head. This situation was reported to middle management, and let us hope that the message reached the proper people so they can make future changes. I believe people learn best with the use of examples or stories, so I shared that story. I do hear your message, though, that sometimes new and sexy is fun and nice, but a company has to deliver excellent customer service on the basic product or services that the company is known for – above all else. Good points and thanks for giving our readers some additional points to ponder. Best wishes, Allen

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