Supervisor vs Manager

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:
Can you more clearly define the role of a Supervisor versus that of a Manager?

Response:
It can be confusing to nail down what one company defines as a Supervisor vs what another company defines as a Manager. Part of the problem talking about management issues, we don’t have a precise language. We talk using one set of words and others listen using another set.

Elliott Jaques (Requisite Organization) provides helpful direction by specifically describing and measuring the level of work using Time Span.

When I talk about the role of a Supervisor, I am looking for longest Time Span task assignments that can reasonably be completed between 3-12 months. The activities I would describe for that role are coordinating in nature, scheduling people, materials and equipment, tracking progress toward project milestones, solving logistical problems, using discretionary judgment within limits set by their manager. The value add of this role is accuracy, completeness and timeliness.

When I talk about the role of a Manager, I am looking for longest Time Span task assignments that can reasonably be completed between 12-24 months. The activities I describe for that role are planning, sequencing, system creation, system monitoring and system improvement. The latitude of their discretionary judgment is broader (also defined using Time Span). The value add of this role is consistency and predictability of results (achieved by systems).

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