By Brandon Battles
First things first. It's not your imagination. The name associated with Management Matters has changed.
While the baton has changed hands the intentions have not. Through this column I will share my experiences and observations about maintenance and management and how the two relate. Should you view my thoughts and ideas as the final solution? No. I would rather you view my words as food for thought as you confront the challenges that go with being in maintenance management. Too often we get into a rut when approaching common issues and opportunities. Listening to different viewpoints may lead to a more complete solution.
Making a job change
So let's look at a frequently overlooked situation, when a technician is promoted to a management position. This situation, by the way, is not unique to aviation but occurs in most businesses and organizations.
The event that triggers the oversight is the promotion of an individual from one type of work to another. The oversight is that the company does not recognize the different skill set needed to successfully fulfill the requirements of the new position. This situation is exacerbated when the change involves a person that moves from a line type of position to management, two totally different positions when considering the skills required.
The fact that this oversight occurs is hard to understand when looking at things from the company's perspective. First, the company has weakened itself on the technical side. More than likely the person was a top performer, which in many situations, right or wrong, automatically qualifies the person for promotion. Second, the company is weaker in the management position, hopefully only temporarily, that the promoted individual now occupies. How long the company stays in the weak state is up to the company, but the shorter the better.
The company should move rapidly to reduce the time that it takes to re-establish (strengthen) itself in both positions. Before identifying the methods for reducing the weakness, let's first support the claim that different job skills do exist. Because if you're like me in my younger years, a statement like that was a bunch of textbook stuff, a job was a job and anyone could do it.
Examining the different skills
Let's examine some of the skills required when comparing a technician to a maintenance manager. The technician needs:
- To be dexterous. Technicians have extensive requirements to work with their hands and the various tools that make their jobs easier to perform. Additionally they need to have excellent hand-to-eye coordination or, in some cases, hand-to-feel coordination when they can't see what they are working on.
- To be a contortionist. How many times do the technicians encounter maintenance items that can be performed while standing or sitting with a surplus of space? In most situations technicians have limited access and find themselves in awkward positions.
- To have troubleshooting skills (analytical skills). Technicians must identify a problem (sometimes without a great deal of prior communication), determine the cause of the problem, and fix the problem (which takes us back to the first two skills).
- To be able to read and understand technical information. On top of the regulations, which are about as easy to understand as tax regulations, the technician must navigate and comprehend documents such as bulletins, directives, and manuals.
- To communicate. Communication will appear in a variety of ways but primarily it's about technical issues on an aircraft.
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