There just aren’t enough hours in the day!
Yes, I’ve said this many times myself. Sometimes it feels that you simply have no control over your schedule.
There is no doubt that Industrial Leadership is a serious challenge even in the best of times. There are so many diverse responsibilities to be attended to, challenges to deal with, crises to overcome, and opportunities to pursue.
Just look at the table of contents of this book. Clearly, Industrial Leadership isn’t a narrowly focused expertise or discipline. To survive, let alone achieving any measure of success, the Industrial Leader must diligently oversee all aspects of the company organization, from technical aspects of the manufacturing process, the safety of employees and contractors, product and/or service quality, environmental compliance, financial performance as well as strategic aspects of financial leadership, a broad range of HR tasks including protecting the organization from corruption and protecting employees from exploitation by loan sharks, supply chain strategy including cost strategy, sales and product development, and personal development. There is even a chapter about networking … how can one ever expect to devote time to networking and personal development while attending to all of the other leadership responsibilities?
Major facilities owned and operated by multinational conglomerates typically benefit from a global team of specialists, experienced professionals recruited from peer companies and competitors, and bright young specialists selected from the best domestic universities. However, the majority of industrial facilities are small to medium sized ventures managed by a very small team of professionals who each oversee multiple functions. For example, the Accounting Manager may also take care of Administration and HR. The Operations Manager is also the Maintenance Manager. The Safety Manager oversees the Quality function. The Supply Chain Manager also takes care of Finished Goods. The Managing Director also serves as the Plant Manager and Sales Manager.
In many ways, leading a small industrial facility can be significantly more challenging than running a major facility. However, regardless of the size and scope of the business, the modern competitive environment demands that each employee and each manager be fully utilized, with headcount strictly limited.
Delegate: To Who
My whole team is busy, everyone is working hard. I know I am doing tasks that should be delegated to others. I know that my key management responsibilities are not getting done because I’m working on non-core tasks. However, if I delegate these tasks, either they won’t get done properly, or they will get done at the expense of other important tasks.
You say I don’t delegate effectively. I say I am very willing to delegate, if only I had someone to whom I could responsibly delegate these tasks.
Delegation is a Process, not an Act
Delegation is not simply assigning a task to someone else, like kids passing the hot potato. If it was this easy, everyone could do it.
Your responsibility as a leader is to manage your entire organization to ensure that tasks are prioritized and accomplished in the most effective and efficient manner by the people most capable of doing so. This means managing your managers, managing your organization, and managing yourself.
Many managers, supervisors, and employees focus on tasks that they like, or tasks that get the most unwanted attention. Some tasks may lack priority, many tasks should be redefined, reassigned, or removed from the task list.
You will never be successful at managing your job responsibilities until you manage and mentor your subordinates to most effectively manage their job responsibilities.
Each organization is unique. Your company has its own set of operational requirements that must be successfully fulfilled in order to meet your business and financial obligations. Each organization also has a unique set of human resources, skills, and other assets to accomplish these requirements.
If you intend to manage these responsibilities, you must first identify the discrete tasks that must be accomplished to do so. Take this seriously; many organizations find themselves spending large amounts of time on tasks which do not directly contribute to achieving the organizational goals. Other tasks that are required are often being performed by the wrong people, in the wrong way, lacking in efficiency, and wasting valuable time and resources.
Take the time to clearly identify the tasks, understand how the tasks are being performed, and evaluate which tasks can be eliminated, combined, streamlined, outsourced, or otherwise improved to make your organization more effective.
Do your Accountants rely on Excel spreadsheets to accomplish various tasks? With modern integrated Accounting software, there should almost never be any requirement to generate or maintain an Excel spreadsheet. Work with your Accounting package supplier to fully automate every function, including report generation and trend charting. A small investment in software configuration will deliver major reductions in labor, as well as minimize opportunities for mistakes (or the dreaded lost file / corrupted file).
You will never be successful in managing the workload in your company until you have clarity on the tasks that your organization is performing.
Once you have identified the tasks that must be done, you must carefully evaluate how the tasks are being performed.
Process Mapping is a valuable technique to understand and define more complicated tasks. For example, the process of executing a Purchase Order is a great example of a task that should be evaluated using a Process Map.
Prepare to be surprised when you gain visibility on how key tasks are actually being performed. Tasks are typically allowed to evolve seemingly without any logic or reason, until they become convoluted, confused, inefficient wasters of time and talent.
Processes don’t naturally organize themselves into their most efficient form. Teams don’t instinctively understand or appreciate the most effective method of accomplishing a process. Process Mapping is a great tool to identify wasteful tasks, allowing the organization to achieve the most efficient, streamlined process.
A great resource for Process Mapping is “Improving Performance: How to Manage the White Space on the Organization Chart” by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache.
Task Scheduling and Workload Distribution
Procrastination is a very common human trait. We have all been guilty of procrastinating at one time or another. Some of us are champion procrastinators, never completing any task until the last minute.
After you have rationalized the various tasks performed by your organization, and have worked diligently and creatively to make each task and process as efficient and streamlined as possible, you must consider task scheduling. Determine firm dates for completing various tasks. Never allow or tolerate late or last minute task completion, especially when subsequent tasks such as month end closing depends on timely completion of precursor tasks.
Do not overlook opportunities to achieve a more balanced distribution of workload. Many tasks do not require highly specialized skills. Such tasks simply require a well-defined process and some training to efficiently and effectively follow the process to complete the task.
Do not allow physical or virtual walls to prevent a fair and prudent distribution of tasks. There is no reason why the Administration Officer can’t assist the HR department with time and attendance, or assist Accounting with some tasks. Remember, everyone is working for the same team.
To achieve the full potential of your organization, your organization needs to focus on its core competencies. Anything that is not integral to your business should be evaluated for outsourcing.
In recent years, payroll outsourcing is becoming more common. This is a good example of using an outside specialist organization to most efficiently execute a very important but non-core task. Payroll is certainly very important; if your staff doesn’t get paid correctly and on time, you can be sure they won’t be your staff for long. They’ll be working for someone else. Yes, important, even vital tasks can be effectively outsourced.
Accounting Outsourcing is becoming increasingly common. Traditionally, accounting was a labor intensive, paperwork intensive function. The flow of paper documents was a fundamental, physical limitation preventing outsourcing.
Today, nearly all accounting functions are performed using third party accounting software packages. All data, whether sales transactions, purchasing and expense transactions, inventory movements, etc., are recorded entirely using integrated software tools. Even more importantly, modern software packages are fully integrated with the Internet, so a transaction entered in one physical location can immediately be processed by someone in the next room or halfway around the world. Physical proximity is no longer a practical limitation to accounting transactions.
Modern Accounting Outsourcing contractors can completely manage nearly all of your accounting transactions, including report generation and flagging potential troublesome trends or issues, from a completely remote location.
Today many companies are also outsourcing some or all of their Maintenance tasks, Warehousing / Logistics, IT, Security, Housekeeping, etc.
Due to scale efficiencies and expertise, outsourcing contractors can often do a better job than your staff, more efficiently, more reliably, and for lower total cost.
Manage Your Company, Don’t Let It Manage You
I often find Managers aren’t really managing anything. These managers could more accurately be called “Caretakers.” They just monitor the company activities, and keep things chugging along.
For some organizations, a Caretaker role is the appropriate leadership model. If your company produces and delivers a well-established product or service, has a stable and loyal customer base, has little opportunity or appetite for growth or product development, and does not face or risk strong competition or disruptive new technology, then the Caretaker role might be ideal.
However, I observe that there are fewer and fewer organizations that enjoy such entrenched and persistent stability that they have no need or incentive to pursue improvements. What I do see is Caretaker managers running companies that desperately need enlightened and inspired leadership to realize their full potential.
I also see managers who recognize that their organization needs to change, evolve, improve, and grow to survive in an increasingly competitive global market. However, they are so overwhelmed with the daily crises, challenges, workload, and both internal and external demands that they are virtually paralyzed. They work too many hours, suffer from stress, and despite best intentions never manage to gain control over their own workload or that of their team.
Do not allow yourself to be managed by the crisis of the day. Do not allow your team to struggle day in and day out, never achieving success in their positions and departments. Don’t succumb to the easy option of throwing more people at the problem. Without a well developed operating environment, more people merely creates more complexity and less transparency, increasing your costs, reducing your competitiveness, and makes it more likely that your organization will never achieve the efficiency that can and must be realized.
Congratulations, you are the Manager. It is time to start Managing. You have many tools in your toolbox. Use them skillfully, and you will become the Manager that your team, company, shareholders, and customers require you to be.