By Sid Chadwick, Chadwick Consulting, Inc.
“I need for you to help me find a Plant Manager…ours is retiring….in 3 months…. and there are lots of issues needing attention… needing improvement…and neither I nor my brother would do the job that’s needed…..that would be incestuous…..we’re partly blind to what’s needing attention...”…………………..Company Owner
Did you say your current Plant Manager is retiring… in 3 months…?
That phone call discussion….happened….early this week.
At a recent Plant Manager’s Peer Group Meeting, I asked, “Do you know important processes and technical issues… about your company, that no one else in your organization…knows…and that are not written-down.....?”
(Over time, this sort of unintended positioning and neglect of important information ……….….happens.)
The group’s response, after a moment of silence….was unanimous: “Yes”….several volunteered…”Many things”….Subsequently, many of them included that assignment for their follow-up, written, “Feet-to-the-Fire Commitments”.
Too many company cultures in our industry do not focus on continuous performance improvement --- of a broad scope…including….putting important procedures ….and a forward-looking Plan --- in writing….that includes… “Measurement of Performance Improvement…that’s posted for employees to see….and use”
Note: in my phone discussion with that owner who’s almost desperate to find a qualified Plant Manager (with competencies in both sheetfed and web production), we discussed how vulnerable his company is…and what I’d observed in his Pressroom --- in some detail….four years earlier --- in a quick walk-through. (He shared that nothing of consequence since then, had changed, or improved.)
The better managed companies I know are allowing themselves to be critically reviewed….. not allowing any department --- to receive a “pass” --- “no need for improvement here --- at this time”.
Plant Managers are too often being asked to operate as “Important Care-Takers”….”get their customers’ jobs produced correctly, and on-time.”
That’s not the whole picture we should be supporting from them…or that they should be supervising…and developing….including their own development.
One of the saddest scenes I wish I could forget… was watching owners move quietly…. to replace their Plant Manager, in his early 40’s, in excellent health, who was working at least 60+ hours each week.
Why replace him? He was not moving production performance toward technical improvements…while company’s owners were not investing-in or facilitating and directing his development --- though he’d been with them --- over a decade.
Through his entire tenure with that company, he’d listened to what they wanted him to accomplish, saluted, and moved forward….with reliable execution. Yet, he’d initiated few improvements that were not requested, and not moved the company toward technical improvements --- to which he was unfamiliar.
Inspired by Ray Prince, that story is part of the background of why we initiated our Plant Manager’s Peer Group(s), where attendees are challenged professionally…to learn new ways of seeing, new ways of critical thinking, measuring and improving…. to collaborate….and learn from each other’s Plant performance improvements….and not just during their Peer Group Meetings --- but also in periods…. between our Plant Manager’s Peer Group Meetings.
One additional issue we emphasize: “Be a constant contributor to the education of your Business Development Team, and development of new business.”
Plant managers tend to know much about their production’s capabilities, that Business Development Teams --- and their customers --- either do not know, or are not reminded.… they can produce.
Putting those capabilities in writing --- with minimums and maximums --- tends to support competencies…..and Business Development.
Are you developing your Plant Manager…and….his/her subordinates…..? (Three months till retirement is not the best time to start.)
“Who does not grow….declines…”…………Rabbi Hillel