- December 20, 2017
- Posted by: David Marshall
- Category: Leadership, management, measurement
I sometimes think we have too many middle managers clogging up the business world. I look at companies that do big layoffs of their middle managers and wonder if they were actually that effective to begin with. If a company decides they can do away with 20 percent of their workforce, and the managers are the first to go, did the managers really contribute to the company’s growth?
Of course, every company and every situation is different, so I can’t make a blanket statement of what’s correct. But I also think that a manager’s span of control — the ratio of workers to managers — can be expanded, and managers can lead more people, if the company would embrace effective quantifiable measurements of their employees.
This is something I have preached about for years, especially with my previous employer. In order to pare down our employees, cut the dead wood and waste, and run at peak efficiency, one of the first programs I implemented was to measure everyone in the operation.
Not just the associates out on the floor, but the back office staff too. We were all measured on different aspects of our jobs to ensure we met certain benchmarks that set the difference between top performance, acceptable performance, and low performance.
I began to realize that managers are able to expand their span of control and have more people working for them because of this measurement system.
Consider one of the biggest management issues: productivity. How can you tell if an employee is being productive if you don’t have a benchmark measurement? On the factory floor, if an associate is supposed to produce 100 units per hour, you can tell whether he or she is “making rate.” If they have a couple off hours, it’s usually not a big deal. If they’re off for a couple of days, that’s an indication that something’s not going right, and a manager can step in and determine the problem.
But if an associate is consistently failing to make rate, then the manager can either provide additional training, move the associate, or let them go. In this case, the problem is solved immediately, without waiting for an annual evaluation or a serious problem to crop up before that final step is taken. There’s less ongoing management of an ongoing problem, because the problem is quickly identified and dealt with.
This is also true of the office staff. For example, when I first started with Robroy, we found that 40 percent of our invoices had some kind of error on it, which rippled into problems with inventory, receiving, shipping, and accounting, so we started measuring everything and everyone quantifiably.
This helped us home in on the people who were causing the problems, and we were able to take the necessary steps — training, reassignment, or termination — that solved it.
So we started measuring everything and everybody quantifiably in the entire process. We figured that every time we gave a credit on an invoice, someone had created the initial error. We tallied that credit against the individual or department that had created the problem. With this data, we were able to determine the source of the problems and pinpoint the staff creating the problems.
As we learned, if there are objective measurements that people are hired to, they will ultimately manage themselves because they know their benchmarks. Our staff knew what the problems were and managed themselves, which let our managers focus on their own work. It also meant we didn’t need as many managers as a bloated-in-the-middle company might have.
By applying objective measurement to everyone, managers can be there for guidance, decision making, and to work with individuals who fall off their productivity. This way, you can get more done with fewer managers, which means you aren’t clogging up your organizational chart with a lot of middle managers that have to be cut later when you’re facing a downturn.
I’ve been a manufacturing executive, as well as a sales and marketing professional, for a few decades. Now I help companies turn around their own business. If you would like more information, please visit my website and connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Photo credit: Geralt (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)