Management is not just for managers

Someone asked me for a particular passage that I wrote about decentralized management. I scanned my published papers in order to locate the requested quotation. The scan disclosed that I revisited that subject often and that the collection of some pertinent quotations that follows this paragraph may help others understand the importance of decentralized management. The need for such understanding has never been greater than it is now since many retired naval officers occupy relatively senior management positions in major U.S. shipyards. They come from a culture where apparent performance is as good as real performance. They have been brought up in a system in which competition with each other is a foremost preoccupation. Thus, decentralized management such as in the world’s most effective shipyards, is apt to be regarded by some of them as shining light on others.

“A unique feature of the work flows facilitated by applying Group Technology to a product work breakdown, is that the lowest level of work classification can be established as a cost center. Where implemented, because of the immediate focus on product cost, a supervisor of a single work flow, for example, has to think and act as a general manager of a single-product factory. Of course, each person in charge at a higher summary level has to think and act as a general manager of a multi-product factory.”

“Per master budgets and schedules imposed from above, monthly budgets and schedules are prepared by shop managers, biweekly by foremen, weekly by assistant foremen, and daily by workers. Each level is responsible for implementation and analysis accordingly. Thus, a schedule or budget lapse automatically triggers a response from a level of management that is commensurate with the problem.”

“…success should be measured by the cumulative affect of bit-by-bit improvements throughout the manufacturing system and the service systems that support manufacturing. Any one such improvement would not be worthy of notice. Utopia is reached when such improvements regularly require that estimating and marketing people be notified of the manufacturing system’s new capability and availability. In this way, many relatively small adjustments in design details and in work methods are captured as corporate experience and so contribute to constantly advancing technology.”

“Nothing in the definition of TQM implies that only people with the title ‘manager’ can provide excellent supervision. In fact, workers are eminently more qualified to make the largest percentage of required manufacturing-cycle decisions.

“Nothing in the definition says that workers in heavy industry should not make the same kinds of decisions for which management is responsible, for example, planning, scheduling, implementing, and evaluating decisions. In fact the most important feature in world-class shipyards, is the ‘management created climates in which each worker routinely uses ‘his own mind and his own experience to improve his own job, the product, the process, and the quality’ just as IBM’s Watson achieved for light industry.

“Exploiting the thinking abilities of workers for management cycle decisions makes sense for some of the reasons given by behaviorists. But there is also an extremely practical reason that behaviorists do not mention.

“8th Axiom: There are a hell of a lot of small-scope decisions to be made, and there are a hell of a lot more workers than there are managers.

“Everything said about workers in the foregoing also applies to assistant foremen, and foremen. Constant improvement of a manufacturing system is enhanced when responsibility and authority are decentralized from the top in decreasing size spheres of influence commensurate with each level’s capability.

“9th Axiom: Numerous small-scope management decisions, continuously made, have more productivity improvement potential than the collective experience vested in a few top, department and shop managers.

“10th Axiom: TQM cannot exist unless workers at each work stage in a work flow are given instant feedback about how their own work is performing, particularly regarding man-hour costs, schedule adherence and quality.

“11th Axiom: Allowing anyone access to information prepared for people at higher summary levels, doesn’t pass the test of common sense.”

“Decentralization—Scientific management maintains the same knowledge of how a manufacturing system is performing in different summary levels. The effect is like having the same knowledge “diced” in a large-frame sense (relatively few groups), in an intermediate-frame sense (moderate number of groups), and in a small-frame sense (many groups). Further, scientific management requires that the same kinds of planning, scheduling, implementing and evaluating decisions be made at each level. TQM is mostly dependent upon how well such decisions are made at the lowest level. Since there are an overwhelming number of small-scope decisions to be made, workers must be trained to participate in decision making. Otherwise, the need to make numerous small-scope decisions is ignored. TQM cannot possibly exist.”

“For most matters for which standards are useful, there is no time to achieve general agreement. A modern manufacturing system features unrelenting analyses that constantly identify even minute improvements. Authority, custom or general consent applies to acceptance of the system for constant improvement and not to the improvements per se. The latter are automatically incorporated in the forever-changing standards.”

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