Focal points for the new manager
By Bill de Decker
ongratulations . . . you're the new manager of the department! If you're like me, it's a day you have been waiting for with anticipation, but also a certain amount of dread. Anticipation because it's a big step forward, dread because most likely, nothing in your formal education prepared you for this step. It's crazy, but there are endless courses on any subject you may be interested in, except how to be a manager! In my own case, my total preparation for being a manager was a one week course entitled "Principles of Supervision" given by Boeing, my then employer!
When I was promoted to my first real management job, I was lucky — I did not have the professional credentials to perform our organization's primary task (training pilots). Why was this lucky for me? It prevented me from doing what most technical persons do when they get promoted, which is to go right on doing what they were doing before the promotion! Instead, it forced me to focus on what a manager's real job is — getting customers, keeping customers and doing so profitably.
In other words, being a manager is basically different than being a technician or inspector. And, even though your office may not be more than 50 feet from where you worked before, your focus has changed completely. As a technician, the focus is on accomplishing the assigned task properly and on schedule. As a manager, the focus is on making sure there are tasks that need to be accomplished not only today, but also next week and next year. How do you make this shift? Here are some thoughts, based on experience that will help you focus on what's important.
Focus On The Customer
Any maintenance organization is in the service business. In the service business, survey after survey has shown that reliability and quality are the most important factors your customers will use in judging the success of your operation. What this means is that the job must be done right the first time and must be completed on time and on budget. The higher your organization's ratings in this area, the higher the level of customer satisfaction will be. This applies whether it's a commercial, corporate, or government operation.
An integral part of this is to focus on how your customers use their aircraft (or would like to use their aircraft) and suggest ways that can decrease maintenance downtime, increase availability, or reduce cost. This approach makes maintenance planning an integral part of the customers' operation, allows your organization to provide better service, and strengthens the ties between your maintenance operation and your customers.
Focus On Cost
The first step is to know exactly what your costs are. Know what are the maintenance costs incurred by each customer, contract and aircraft. Know what are the fixed costs for your department. Know what other costs are assigned to your department by the finance department. And, know the costs in detail. This will probably require some serious digging because in many companies, department managers are not given the whole cost picture. For example, you may get a detailed printout of actual costs vs. budget for the maintenance department. But, that often doesn't contain depreciation, cost of capital, corporate and administrative expenses, and a host of other expenses you were told not to worry about. The problem is that these costs are built into your cost structure and are part of the total costs that your management and customers use when judging your operation.
Once you have all the costs, you have numbers that you can compare costs on other ways of getting the work done as well as to compare against the competition. And if you are not satisfied with the costs, what can you do? One thing you can do is benchmark your operation against your knowledge of other operations, industry surveys and databases, or just good business practices. Items to examine include:
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