The Foundation of Management

The tools to success By Brandon Battles When I began writing this column earlier this year, it was my intention to write several articles that laid the foundation for the profession of management. I would establish the foundation by...

A simple example will illustrate how planning might play a role in an organization. The executive level of the organization has decided that overhaul activity to outside customers needs to increase by 20 percent in the upcoming year. (By the way, your organization was included in the discussions that established this strategic objective and the planning occurred more than two days before the end of the year. I really am an idealist, aren’t I?) Let’s also assume that the overhaul shop will not have to concern itself with planning the marketing and sales of this strategic plan. What are some of the issues that the overhaul shop manager and maintenance manager might want to address as they develop a plan to accomplish this objective?

• What does the term "activity" represent – sales, number of components, labor hours charged? Get those that developed the strategic plan to define this for you.

• Do we have the capacity (physical facility and labor hours) to meet the increase?

• Do we know planned vacations so we can determine times of more or less capacity?

• How will our work for internal customers fit into the objective?

• How will we know if we are meeting the objective? What measurement system(s) do we need to measure our progress?

• How often will we monitor our progress?

• Do we have a system in place to keep our sales staff appraised of our workload so they don’t promise unrealistic turnaround times? (OK, I’m being an optimist again.)

You can probably think of many more questions or issues, but the important point is that planning is fundamental to anything you try to accomplish.

Organizing – As was the case with planning, everyone performs some degree of organizing, whether it’s at work or in our personal lives. Organizing involves three key areas – the work, the people, the work area.

The work involves the actual activities that people will perform. Using our overhaul shop as an example, what activities are performed as it relates to a component that arrives for overhaul? What activities are performed upon receipt of the component? What paperwork is required? What activities are performed during teardown, inspection, testing, and buildup? Is testing performed before release to the customer? Does a document exist that will help the technicians as they proceed through these steps?

The second ingredient for organizing involves the people. Who will be doing the work at the various stages of the overhaul? This is important because you may be able to identify bottlenecks in the process ahead of time. Ideally, you do not want a mismatch of the technicians’ skills when compared with the activities. Who will have authority to approve the various stages of the work? Do not delegate work to individuals if they do not also have the related authority.

The third ingredient involves organizing the workplace. How will the work on the component physically flow through the organization? Will it resemble more of an assembly line or remain in one place while the various stages of work are performed? Where will support activities such as spare parts be located? Inventory that is not strategically located can add time to the process. Where will technical manuals be located? Will there be access to automated work orders? Where will you locate computer terminals? Organizing the workplace can be critical, especially if your capacity was stretched prior to the new 20 percent increase objective.

While organizing, you should recognize the objective, identify the activities that need to be performed, identify who will perform the activities, and delegate when possible.

Directing – This management principle deals exclusively with people. Up to this point, we have developed a plan as to how we can implement the objective of increasing the work performed for outside customers in the overhaul shop by 20 percent. Directing, as in the movies, implies controlling the activities of others toward the accomplishment of the objective. The overhaul shop manager is like the movie director, controlling and directing the activities of the technicians that work in the overhaul shop to accomplish the overall objective. In essence, the manager wants to find the best people (if that opportunity presents itself), give them the responsibility to get the work done, communicate what activities they need to perform, explain how to do the activities if necessary, and motivate them as to the importance of the objective.

A very important point, and one that took me a long time to understand, is that the manager does not actually perform the work. The managers direct, the others accomplish the work. With that said, I also recognize that many managers work for small organizations and performing the work is necessary. Just recognize that while the manager is wearing the manager’s hat, others perform the work.

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