An operations checklist is a collection of brand standards and best practices. What goes on the checklist is a reflection of what matters to the brand (strategic initiatives, seasonal programs, etc…), what the brand is required to do (laws and regulations, health and safety, etc…) and what it aspires to be, operationally and in the eyes of its customers. This checklist needs to be representative of these business objectives but also clear and well understood by the field teams who will be executing these brand standards. This is where “calibration” comes in.
Don’t bet the farm on unproven brand standards and gaps in understanding. Calibrate then scale. Let’s dive in.
There are two facets of calibration we need to consider: calibrating the checklist and calibrating the team.
Calibrating the checklist entails selecting, grouping and ordering what goes on the checklist. This is often driven by the operations team with input from other departments (merchandising, marketing, human resources, loss prevention, etc…).
Checklist items should be sufficiently clear and detailed while avoiding repetition. The checklist must provide good coverage of all areas of interest to the business and be laid out in such a manner as to optimize the district manager’s time doing the visit.
While much can be done at head office, there is simply no substitute for “hands-on” time in the field. Giving a select group of district managers access to the checklist, even if it is just a draft, allows head office to fine tune and calibrate the checklist with real-world feedback. It is often at this stage that unclear copy, repetitive standards or inadequate ordering are noted and addressed.
Calibrating the team is a form of applied-training that ensures standards are evaluated using a consistent and fair scale. While the judgement of a district manager is tremendously important to the success of the audit program, consistency in the rating and grading are equally important.
Calibrating the team entails training operations personnel to have a shared understanding of the operating standards and how to rate and handle deviation from the standards.
Calibrating the team also means demonstrating where the definition of the standard ends and where the district’s manager’s need to make a judgement call begins. Dealing with people is not always as black and white as checking off a box on an electronic form. The operations team needs to know how to handle sometime sensitive and confidential personnel issues for example.
A calibrated checklist reduces confusion, back and forth questions and also facilitates the dissemination of operating standards as well as adoption.
Calibration also ensures standards are rated fairly and consistently. Consistency breeds trust with the overall score and lends itself to aggregate reporting, comparisons across users, regions and time frames.
To reach your business goals, you need to vet and “calibrate” checklists with a sample group of users and stores prior to general launch. Don’t bet the farm on unproven processes. Calibrate then scale.
- Start with a small group of users and stores. The idea is to get feedback early and often before you deploy to a larger group.
- Test-drive the checklist in the field! A checklist may look fine at head office but may prove to have severe shortcomings when you actually conduct a store visit. An inefficient checklist may cause the district manager to have to step back or repeatedly jump around the store to complete the visit.
- Use pilot stores to obtain initial results. Don’t bet the farm on an unproven checklist, run a small pilot and calibrate it until you are satisfied with the outcome.