Why do people make the simplest piece of information overly complicated and inaccessible? I was recently involved in building development plan for senior executive in our organisation. I researched number of management models on the web and was totally underwhelmed by their size and complexity. Why does this happen and is there anything I can do about it?

With the advent of the internet and the growing sophistication of information technology, access to information has grown exponentially and the issue you raise has become increasingly visible. When it comes to managing an organisation there are some core underlying areas that are very straightforward, generic and constant. Keeping these ideas in mind helps sort the wheat from the chaff when faced with this sort of complexity.
Six critical building blocks underpin most organisations. First, there must be strategy and business plan showing the vision of where the business is heading and how it is aiming to get there. This forms the driver for the next building block – achieving full engagement with the people in the organisation. If they buy the vision and the strategy they will commit and become engaged.
The third one is that the business must make enough money to operate. This means that there has to be serious focus on managing working capital, keeping costs down and managing profit margins effectively.
The fourth building block is to be able to create new ideas, innovate and continuously develop the business and its strategies in line with changing markets and technologies. The trick is not to try and make people “be innovative” but to create an environment where they “want to be innovative”.
The fifth building block is for the organisation to have some form of underlying ethics and values. This is differentiator between organisations that stay in business profitably for long time and ones that don’t.
The final building block is to monitor and review performance at all levels. If done well, at the people level this stimulates learning and growth. It also creates the driver for utilising technology effectively to provide good management reporting. At the board level it involves good governance which is built on the preceding building blocks.

I am manager in manufacturing business with over 300 employees. We operate 24-hour shift system and at any one time have four teams on shift with supervisor each. Our supervisors are usually recruited from within the business. I have noticed recently that another member of the shift often seems to be more in charge than the supervisor. Is this common problem?

This is common issue among wide range of manufacturing organisations across the country. The reason is that supervisor is often promoted from within the ranks and hasn’t had the opportunity to develop the skills or experience to let them move effectively into managerial role. Often they have been promoted because they have demonstrated an attribute that has singled them out.
When companies recognise and promote someone like this they think they are adding value to the person and the organisation. Often this doesn’t happen as the person hasn’t had any preparation for the role.
Other people on the team can start to put peer pressure on their old team mate. The new supervisor tries to remain “one of the team” but has made fatal mistake at this point as they have then moved from their new leadership role back to where they were before. This also opens up the opportunity for more dominant person to subjugate the role. The end result is weakening, rather than strengthening, of the organisation and its ability to create tight link between its business plan and action.
There are some actions that you could consider. First, always make the effort to choose people with the right skills and abilities to fill your supervisor roles. Set some clear criteria for what they need. Interview them and ask them to explain how they have handled various situations that demonstrate they have these abilities – eg, handling someone who is consistently late for the start of their shift.
Then identify any gaps in their experience and make conscious decision whether they are good fit for the role and, if so, whether they need additional training. Make sure to also assess them against some pre-determined leadership competencies as this is an important requirement in supervisory role.
Next, focus on their training needs. You could send them on frontline manager learning programme, or choose some specific programmes that would match that particular person’s needs. You could also consider letting them work for while in another team run by role model supervisor, with the specific intent of transferring skills and experience. This supervisor can act as mentor for the upcoming supervisor when they move into their new role.
Finally, consider enabling your supervisors to focus their team on measuring actual performance against targets that they have been involved in setting. At the same time, let them see the results achieved by other teams and compare their performance. You will also need to give the team and your supervisor the power to make decisions with regard to improving their own workflows and processes.
These actions will give your supervisor true leadership role, not just controlling role, and they will be in position to strengthen the engagement and commitment of their team and hence build your business.

• Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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