Good Units Do Routine Things Routinely

May 9, 2023

by Stephen T. Messenger

Retired Four-Star General Paul Funk frequently spoke on his fundamentals of leadership with one of them being “Good units do routine things routinely.” This phrase could not be more accurate when it comes to large organizations. There are hundreds of tasks that must be accomplished every day, and success only comes when each person is doing their job the right way and on time.

The Unannounced Inspection

Our organization is the extremely proud owner of a Child Development Center and Youth Services. The incredible professionals watch and teach over 100 pre-school age kids, allowing their parents to work without worrying about childcare.

Every day, these exceptional workers give their time, patience, and energy to keep our kids safe and help them grow. This includes the incredible support staff working behind the scenes in the kitchen, administration, janitorial, training, maintenance, IT support, hiring team, community liaison, and more!      

Each year, we have an unannounced inspection to evaluate the processes and cleanliness of the program. The inspection standards are unbelievably high, in a good way, because there are few things more important than protecting and taking care of our children.

After three days of looking in every cabinet and observing many interactions with the children, the inspector scored the team amazingly high. I know it wasn’t because the team quickly cleaned everything up for the inspection, but rather they do their job right all the time—routine things routinely.

This is why I don’t get worked up about inspections. When you have a top-notch team who takes care of business for each hour, the daily, weekly, and monthly requirements all fall into place. The unannounced inspection isn’t even a stressor when people are doing the right thing.

Recipe for Success

There are four things an organization needs to do routine things routinely.

  1. Emphasize great leadership. Our childcare centers are blessed to have exceptional leaders. They’re engaged with their teams and students in the classroom. They lay out clear expectations and ensure their staff are trained and knowledgeable. It all starts with our three directors.
  • Prioritize people who care. Next, the organization must be comprised of people who care. They have to passionately embrace their job, their coworkers, and most of all themselves. Teams made up of people who enjoy being there make all the difference. Hire right, and then help people love work.  
  • Know Your Why. Simon Sinek wrote a book, “Starts with Why,” which calls people to know their central purpose for what they do. Leaders must help people find their “why.” In our childcare centers, it’s obvious that the amazing professionals know their “why:” loving on children and encouraging the next generation.
  • Follow the Rules. Finally, leaders must teach, coach, model, and enforce the standards. Most organizations have checklists and inspectable items. Performing one task is never hard. Following all the tasks to the letter every time takes commitment and buy-in from everyone involved. And is important.

Don’t Clean for Visitors—Clean for Yourself

Doing routine things routinely means that inspections, guests, and outside visitors are not a big deal. Working for a Fortune 500 company 20 years ago, our mantra was to never clean when VIPs visited.

Instead, we should be cleaning for ourselves every day, not for people coming to see us one time. We should always do the right thing when no one is looking. That way, when they are looking, the right thing is already done.

When we have great leaders at multiple echelons, work with people who care, know why they care, and follow the checklists, everything else falls into place.

Gratitude for Those Who Follow Routines

I’m incredibly thankful for the wonderful and committed childcare professionals who mentor our kids day in and day out. I’m also incredibly thankful for the countless other sections across our organization who are acing not just their inspections, but their daily routines.

There are so many unsung and tireless heroes out there to thank—I know I miss a lot. It’s important to recognize those people and celebrate the wins. When we look back in the history books of any organization, there will be very few individual names written down. Yet it is the people who do routine things routinely that make an organization run.

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For more articles about kids: Lead Like Your Kid’s Soccer Coach

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