1. Seek clarity
Define and describe standards clearly and unequivocally. This point seems obvious but is often overlooked by overly succinct, sometime cryptic, copy used to define operational standards. The description of the standard should be long enough to clearly and unequivocally describe what constitutes success, state the objective and identify the facets/components that make up the standard.
2. Provide context
Put the standard in context. Explain why it’s needed and why it’s important. Explaining “why” a standard is important helps raise awareness at store level and may in and of itself, increase compliance.
3. Illustrate your standards
A picture is worth a thousand words, illustrate your standards! Most people are visual. While you should be as clear as possible in describing the standard, the use of a “best-practice” picture, attached to each standard, goes a long way towards visualizing the end goal and achieving standards.
4. Give access
Make standards accessible and widely available! Standards are useless unless they are disseminated and reviewed frequently by store, operations and head office personnel alike. An old dusty standards binder does not help you achieve compliance; a living and actionable store audit does.
5. Foster participation
Get store managers and assistant managers to sign off and participate in the review of the visit. Get their input and feedback. Most operators are keen to drive their business forward, their participation is absolutely critical to the success of their business and the brand.
6. Create an action plan
Use the action plan as a vehicle for improvement. Retail is all about execution. An electronic checklist and action plan are means to an end. The action plan is an opportunity to apply corrective actions to problem areas. Generating the action plan should be a) automated and b) weaved into the workflow of the district manager’s visit. If each problem area is an ailment, the action plan is the cure. Don’t leave the store without one!
7. Promote continuous learning
Treat each and every visit as an opportunity to dispense “continuous training”. Learning and training, particularly textbook learning, can be abstract, a store visit isn’t. A store visit is measurable, actionable, field training and a unique opportunity for store and district management to observe, correct and train. Manage expectations and create a culture of continuous improvement.
8. Leverage people and tools
Realize you need both great people and great tools. Rely on software tools to do what software does best: record, calculate and aggregate. Rely on people, in this case your operations group, to do what people do best: provide judgement and insights based on experience.
9. “Be cruel, to be kind”
(Hamlet, Act 3; Scene 4, William Shakespeare). The district manager walks a fine line. If he is too harsh, he risks jeopardizing the relationship and the lines of communication with the store which is essential to its success. If he is too lenient, he risks overlooking factors that will limit the long term success of the store. This balance is notoriously difficult to achieve. When in doubt, remember the aforementioned quote. In order to be kind to the store, to look out for its long term success, the district manager may need to be “cruel”, set high expectations and hold the store to the highest standards of execution.
Standards change. Turnover happens. In retail, compliance is an ephemeral end-goal. It is never “achieved” nor set in stone. Review your standards at least once a year, look for trends, repeat unacceptables and be prepared to repeat the cycle of visits, corrective actions and continuous learning all over again.
Learn more about store execution at Store Execution: Purpose, Scope And Best Practices.