From the Ask Tom mailbag –
How does someone make the leap from technician to manager? I see it all the time in IT work, and I think it’s why there are so many bad managers out there. Isn’t this the Peter Principle, where people are promoted to their level of incompetence?
It’s more than a leap. It is a completely different skill set. The technician is an expert in a technical skill. The technician does the production work.
One level of work above is the supervisor. The supervisor does NOT do the production work. The supervisor makes sure the production work gets done; completely, accurately, no missing segments and on time. The tools of the supervisor are checklists and schedules. This is not a subtle concept and most companies don’t get it.
The role of the supervisor is coordination. Success requires two things. First, the person has the capability to make longer timespan decisions and solve more complex problems. Second is the development of a new skill set related to schedule making, checklist making and meetings. The failure is most supervisors are promoted to a role where they are expected to use a skill set they have not developed and the company is not prepared to train.
Turnover at the supervisor level was killing his floor crew. I spoke with some of the team members on the production team. They were capable at the production level, but none was up to the role of supervisor. We really did have to go outside. Russell had burned through two supervisors in the past nine months.
“Tell me what you look for in this supervisor role.” I asked.
“That’s the problem,” replied Russell. “It’s hard to find someone with the proper experience. The best guys turn out to be great equipment operators, but they cannot handle the scheduling, cycle counts or material flow.”
“Do you interview them for that?”
Russell looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“Russell, here is what I see. You interview for technical skills, which are important. But the role of the supervisor is a completely different role than that of the technician. Your breakdowns are where the skills of the supervisor are needed most, scheduling, cycle counts and material flow. That’s a critical area to interview for.”
“You want me to interview to see how a guy fills out a schedule?”
“Absolutely. Here is how it sounds.
- Step me through your scheduling process.
- How many people on the crew?
- One shift or two?
- Full time or part time?
- How far into the future do you publish the schedule?
- Did you have team leaders? Newbies on the crew?
- How did you mix the experience level on each shift?
- Did often did the production schedule change?
- How did production schedule changes impact the work schedule?
- In addition to the people, how did you schedule equipment required?
- Was the equipment dedicated to your crew, or did you have to share resources with other teams?
- How did you schedule materials?
- How did you relieve inventory for each day’s production?
- How did you know your inventory was correct?
- How did you manage minimum quantities and re-order points in your inventory?
- What were the lead times on your critical path inventory SKUs?
- How did you handle sick outs?
“Russell, it’s more than filling out a paper schedule, it is how the candidate thinks, then behaves.”