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TCV Insights

You Get What You Inspect, Not What You Expect

By Rob Meissner, TCV Growth Partner- I learned that expression from a friend who was an Army procurement officer. He had remarked that vendors really only delivered products and services on schedule with features, quality, etc. that he actively inspected. His inspections communicated to the vendors what was truly important.

That expression came to mind recently when I was talking to the founder of a small company. At the beginning of the year, his management team came together and developed a set of SMART goals for the year.

Specific State exactly what you want to accomplish (Who, What, Where, Why)

Measurable Determine the best way to demonstrate and evaluate the extent to which the

goals have been met.

Achievable Create stretch and challenging goals within your ability to achieve them.

Relevant Create goals that are relevant. How do the goals fit into your key

responsibilities? How are they aligned to objectives?

Time-Bound Set 1 or more target dates, the “by-when” to guide your efforts to successful and timely completion

The goals were great. But now, over half-way through the year, he realized that while they had made some progress, they were not on track to achieve the strategic changes that were envisioned at the start of the year. The management team was pretty strong but they had let today’s challenges, today’s crises, etc. always find a way to crowd out making progress on the more meaningful systemic changes that were required.

In working through the problem, it became clear that he was expecting progress but wasn’t regularly and effectively inspecting to make sure that progress was being made. I suggested the following actions to solve his problem which put him back on track to meet his overall goals:

Set intermediate goals – A yearly objective is great to set direction but shorter term goals are necessary to measure and achieve progress. I find that quarterly objectives that are broken down into monthly milestones work best. It’s long enough period of time to achieve meaningful progress while not being too overly broad. For many, setting specific monthly milestones serves to be empowering, ensuring progress, without having to micromanage. I also know that some people will need more help to break down the monthly milestones into what needs to be accomplished this week, or even what needs to be accomplished today.

Establish clear metrics – You don’t know if you are making progress unless it is something you can measure.

Inspect progress – In his staff meetings, the business owner that I was working with was asking for updates on some of the major initiatives. Invariably though, the discussions on the pressing issues of the day dominated. To be more effective at inspecting, he had to restructure his staff meetings. Now, each department manager had to report on their strategic initiatives and their metrics first. Only when that was done, was there a discussion of today’s fire.

There are a multiple ways to make progress on strategic goals, but you get what you inspect, not what you expect. If you need help in developing a strategic plan for growth please feel free to contact me -



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