By Michael Cowley
Maintenance & Operations Article Use Policy
The two biggest problems today in management is the lack of discipline and accountability, and the only way to address the problems listed above is to improve the quality and quantity of front-line supervision. My advice to organizations is simple, and managers often can complete it at no cost to the organization: Get supervisors and managers out of meetings and their offices and into the field — now.
The first step is to determine the way managers and supervisors spend their time by performing a time study. They can develop a single-sheet time study and write down each day the activities on which they spent time, concentrating on items with little or no direct relationship to the maintenance function.
The study should include all the meetings they attend, as well as the lengths of the meetings. If the meeting situation is problematic — meaning more than four or five meetings a week — managers can institute a meeting-approval policy. Under the policy, a direct manager must approve new meeting requests.
Managers and supervisors also can account for their time by using several blanket or bucket work orders through the maintenance department’s computerized maintenance management system. Examples of work order descriptions include work-order planning and scheduling, safety, training, field time, meetings, human resources, and purchasing.
One word of caution before starting the time study: Make sure participants record their times and activities daily because if they wait until the end of the week, there will be a lot of guessing. The other caveat is to make sure the time study is accurate. Nothing is worse in time studies than finding out participants falsified the data related to their activities to make a point about how hard they have been working.
After analyzing the data from the time study, managers are likely to find they and their supervisors spend a large amount of time in their offices doing paperwork, in meetings, or in front of the computer. Often, I find managers are stuck in the office performing tasks other employees, such as administrative staff, could handle, and most of the time the staff would perform it faster and better than the boss.
Managers who want to improve all aspects of their organization, including the maintenance and engineering function, must find a way to get front-line management out of the office and meetings and into the field with their direct reports. Managers and supervisors must return to doing the job their organizations hired them to do — lead, guide, and direct employees.
I doubt most managers have a TV camera and a production crew in-house, not to mention the time to go undercover. So I suggest skipping the cloak-and-dagger stuff and instead concentrating on being more visible and available to employees. Besides, it is more rewarding personally and professionally to be in the field with the team instead of sitting in another meeting or the office in front of the computer.
Michael Cowley, CPMM, is president of CE Maintenance Solutions — www.cemaintenancesolutions.com. Cowley provides maintenance training, coaching, and consulting services to facility and manufacturing organizations nationwide, and he is a frequent speaker at national facilities management conferences.
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