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Marketing and Sales are very different organizations, but regardless of whether you are a manager or an individual contributor in either organization, your goal is to produce results.

“There is no such thing as failure. There are only results.” Tony Robbins

People are more likely to produce results when they are held accountable to them. However, accountability isn’t accidental. It’s planned. When people know their results will be inspected, they are more likely to take the steps that enable them to deliver on them.

“People don’t do what you expect but what you inspect.”  Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., IBM Chairman and CEO, 1993-2002.

If you are not seeing the results you want from yourself or your team, you need to make an investment in inspection. Inspection may be needed at a high level, or all the way down in the weeds.  Here’s a simple framework you can use to inspect any project not performing to your satisfaction:

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Purpose — Why do the results matter?

It’s hard to get people fired up about doing things that don’t matter. If you want results of a certain kind, make sure the people involved understand “the Why” behind your expectations. Provide leadership by making sure the goal is understood and has purpose.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams

Expectations — Are the expectations achievable?

No one wants to be set up for failure. If expectations are unrealistic at the outset, most people see failure and are reluctant to even take the first step. If you have very big goals, it may make more sense to break them down into a sequence of smaller goals that build to your larger one to prove to yourself or others success is possible.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” Tony Robbins

Strategy — What approach will be used to meet the expectations?

People are more confident when a set of options to achieve a goal are evaluated and the best choice among them is selected. It’s also important that people feel empowered to test an approach. It’s better to fail early and move on…after all, not every strategy will succeed.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” Mark Zuckerberg

Plan — How will the strategy be operationalized in terms of time and resources?

Everyone wants to be involved in strategy, but many do not like planning and everyone seems to enjoy blaming failure on execution. Yet, when results are poor or mixed, the only way to know if strategy or execution was the culprit is a clear plan and thoughtful monitoring of execution. To ensure you don’t end up wondering what failed—was it the strategy or the execution?—make a plan for execution that includes KPIs (key performance indicators). Inspect the plan before you execute it, as well as monitor the actual execution of the plan. If you are satisfied you executed the strategy well, then you know it is the strategy that isn’t working if you aren’t seeing the results you want.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

Execution — Is everything performing to plan?

To keep execution on track, inspect the KPIs on a regular basis to evaluate if the strategy is working. Don’t be afraid of failure! If you are executing well and not seeing evidence you will achieve the desired results, you may want to rethink your strategy and start down a new path sooner.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Measurement — How did the results compare to the expectations?

The ultimate inspection is comparing results to expectations. Did you succeed? Come close? Miss the mark entirely?

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whatever the outcome, setting expectations and inspecting at the level needed to achieve them along the way results in an objective and data-driven perspective that gives you a foundation for improving.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill