road-to-successTo make any process better, does it pay to be obsessed with analyzing your failures? Does virtually any system, whether it be it turning apartments or delivering medical care, have inevitable weak points that need to be found, analyzed and guarded against?

A simple example: The Collier Companies manages student housing.  We turn approximately 60% of our units every fall during a 10 to 15 day period. This is an enormous effort that requires a massive build-up and deployment of resources: cleaners, painters, carpet installers etc. Vendors bulk up for this; hiring new employees, some mom and pop operators double, triple, even quadruple their number of employees. Many smaller owners are ‘hands on’, conducting ‘on the job’ training of the ‘do as I am doing’ style. Without them consciously realizing it, most of their quality control comes from the fact they are part of the work crew. Needless to say, when they expand to 3 or 4 crews, this form of quality control is frequently ineffective. Unless training, supervision and inspection is ramped up in equal or greater measure, there is significant risk that the “Customer Experience” will be down graded.

We attempt to mitigate for this in many ways:

* We have annual vendor meetings a month or so before turn, emphasizing the need for training, supervision and inspection, we also hand out written quality standards.

* We require that every vendor leave a “Pride in Workmanship” note in every apartment: “This apt was cleaned (painted, carpet installed etc.) by __________. We take pride in our work; any comments please call or text 555-5555 or email xxxxxx.” Even if the work was not done properly, at least our Customers know we tried.

* Our on-site team inspects all work. The first few call backs are free, too many and we start to deduct from the vendor payment.

* We always have excess resources on call. This is not without cost but it is part of our commitment to our Customers (remember the good old days when airlines kept spare planes so a maintenance issue didn’t cancel the flight?)

To get better, you first have to know how and why you (or others) have failed in the past. To do the same thing over and over and expect different or better outcomes is insanity. Progress requires intelligent, directed change.

 Closing Quotes:

“Success …arises from a deliberate, even obsessive reflection upon failure and a constant searching for solutions.” – Atul Gawande, MD; 1965 –  “Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance”

“The only real mistake is the one not learned from.” – Peter Drucker; 1909 – 2005, Management/Quality Expert