Thursday, 8 September 2016

Getting Out onto the Shop Floor

Mr Q's post yesterday on the travails of Sports Direct, and Jan's comment on companies "where the top brass never really know what's going on beneath them" strike a chord.

The issue of management never visiting the shop-floor is a mystery to me - the preserve of lazy gits, however sharp they may be on some aspects of the business.  My father was in marketing for a multi-national manufacturer: head office through-and-through, but he always insisted on his sales force becoming familiar with the widely-flung production sites - which he himself visited frequently - and I was brought up to believe this was the obvious thing to do.  Just an extension of an officer's duty, army style, which both he and I were in our times: really basic stuff.  But done in the right spirit, it's no chore.  It's actually 100% self-interested!  - an education and a boon to all concerned.  As perhaps Mr Ashley now recognizes.

I was always head-office, too, in various energy co's, and practised the same philosophy, sometimes to the amazement of my nicely-dressed, London-bound staff who had sort-of viewed the plant as dirty and noisy and, well, beneath their dignity but actually it is amazing [see this little tale - who couldn't be impressed by that sort of kit?], as they rapidly discovered.  Getting to grips with it in the flesh  -  the steel'n'concrete, and the operatives & stroppy plant management  -  paid massive dividends.

[Not least  -  when I was with oil companies  -  the trips out to the North Sea platforms (in the grand days before Piper Alpha put paid to non-essential trips offshore), which were often a serious adventure; and all came my way because I took the ops side seriously, even if it was technically 'none of my business'.]

The denizens of the factory floor don't like 'inspections' from on high, or pure dilettante head-office tourism.  But take a genuine interest, and they are only too keen to (a) show off what they've got & what they can do, and (b) spill the gen.  Who wouldn't want to be given that kind of first-hand low-down?

Then when the chips are down and the custard has hit the fan, you can just pick up the phone and it's old friends just sorting things out together (the occasional crate of whisky often helps, too).  Nothing but contempt for 'management' who don't know what's oop at 'mill.

ND

22 comments:

Sackerson said...

One outstanding head teacher quoted the old saying, "The best manure is the farmer's foot."

Barnacle Bill said...

When during one of my forays ashore I managed to secure the position of warehouse manager with a Leeds based company. One of the conditions I got out of them was that I would have a month going around the eight other warehouses scattered around the UK.

This also suited them as they wanted a month to get rid of the exsisting manager.

During my month wandering around the various sites I worn the uniform of the workers and tried to do a couple days on the floor in each place. It was certainly a good grounding for me. As within two years I was appointed group operations manager.

Unfortunately we parted ways soon after when they tried to stitch me up over inclusion in the share out from the manager's bonus scheme. How the company car ended up on the docks at Kings Lynn is another story!

Raedwald said...

Spot on Nick. I too came from the old breed of Employer's agents and happily spent half my thirty years in Construction on-site. In recent years, from the time when the Personnel dept became the Human Resources dept, a cabin of one's own on a site was preferable anyway to deciphering the meaning of touchdown areas, nodding-off points and breaking-up zones or working out whether a Gregg's sausage roll counted as 'hot food' and could not therefore be eaten at one's workstation.

No single job I ran was over £15m - and therefore within the scope of me knowing every single construction detail. Contractors and subbies had to lump me wandering the site talking to the crafts directly, designers had to lump changes to bits of their design that were visibly naff and needed changing and at the monthly contract meetings I had the advantage of knowing exactly as much as the contractor's site manager. Our clients got best value and best design quality, contractors found they were treated fairly and I could be a valuable force in solving problems. So who wouldn't like this?

Well, first and foremost, the professional members of my client team - engineers (structural, civil and services), architects, cost consultants, CDM consultants, lighting designers, the lot. These days most are 150% overcommitted on work in the race to gain a fees ratio that will get them into the annual 'Building' magazine top 50 UK firms list. This means that most will only visit the site on the morning before the monthly contract meeting - and will see exactly what the site manager wants to show them on that day. It made them feel uncomfortable and a little bit redundant that they were perpetually reactive.

Secondly, the HR department was constantly unhappy that I was semi-detached from the corporate environment. And my Director wanted me to over-commit on work like our competition. But up to retirement I would run not more than three concurrent jobs, and was happy to put our clients' return business and my professional rep first .. and am still happy to know every part of everything we built.

Bill Quango MP said...

Now I think about it that Tesco story I mentioned was from 'back to the floor.'

Its reasonably common in retail for the management to be shoved onto the shop floor or warehouses at Christmas. By the 10th December its far too late to change any plans and only extreme firefighting can be undertaken. if all has gone well then the top bosses push the management out of their offices to stop them distracting the heavily under pressure managers with pointless memos and requests.

The management tend to end up as a sort of till packer. You will see the audit team in primark and similar. Trying to recall the till functions and the correct cancellation procedures.
The regional managers and buyers will be filling up stock as they have a good stock knowledge and know where things are and should go.
HR payroll and accounts - useless, as to be expected. No real of idea of even the very basic things that the company sells or how its operations are structured.

dearieme said...

The truth is that to anybody with a bit of imagination and an enquiring mind, the "mill" is just a more interesting place than HQ.

In my manager-in-boiler-suit days I even sat through a union meeting in the canteen while the steward bullied his troops into going along with his scheme for trying to impose over-manning using a fake safety excuse. I had more sense than to use that inside knowledge short-term, but it informed my view of union men ever after, and particularly any of their drivel about being concerned for safety. The junior doctors are concerned about patient safety? Bollocks.

botogol said...

"Nobody from head office liked visiting Acton. They hated the factory with its peeling cream and green frontage, halfway between an Odeon Cinema and an East German bus station. It reminded them that the firm didn’t only make plans and decisions, but also jellies and creamed rice. It reminded them that it owned a small fleet of bright red lorries with ‘Try Sunshine Flans – they’re flantastic’ painted in yellow letters on both sides.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

Electro-Kevin said...

I imagine covert cameras and mics would be more revealing than site visits.

Steven_L said...

Once a copper always a copper eh EK?

Thud said...

Never go the loo in Kevs!

Electro-Kevin said...

I like to know who's been over using the bum paper.

Electro-Kevin said...
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hovis said...

Apart from being illegal and unethical rather ickky and just a really shit thing to do I guess covert mics and cameras could have use. However once you are at that point you will have people judging others on levels of behaviour that would never be expected and without a true feel for dynamics, squeezing the humanity out the company - staff retention long term will plummet.

Electro-Kevin said...
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Electro-Kevin said...

Hovis - Like the Queen an MD will think that everywhere smells of fresh paint and that no-one effs and jeffs, except Prince Philip perhaps.

Electro-Kevin said...

All my deletions, sorry. I'm really pernickety about spelling etc (even though I'm not particularly good at it.) My eyesight is going. I need new specs.

hovis said...

I was not against shop floor visit(unstagemenaged), or working as a grunt for a week or two in different places - the issue I have is with surveillance E-K. It opens up a can of worms no matter how benign the initial intention.

adham said...


الشرق الاوسط من اهم شركات نقل العفش بالدمام متحصصه فى نقل عفش واثاث بالدمام ونقل العفش بالخبر كما انها توفر شركة نقل عفش بالجبيل والخبر وشركة نقل عفش بالقطيف والاحساء وجميع خدمات نقل العفش والاثاث بالمنطقة الشرقية بارخص اسعار نقل عفش بالدمام وتقدم ايضا شركة تخزين عفش بالدمام والخبر
شركة الشرق الاوسط
شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالخبر
شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
شركة نقل عفش بالخبر
شركة نقل عفش بالقطيف
شركة نقل اثاث بالاحساء
شركة نقل عفش الجبيل
شركة نقل عفش بالدمام

adham said...


شركة نقل اثاث بالجبيل
شركة نقل عفش بالخبر
شركات النقل البري بالدمام
شركات نقل العفش بالدمام
ارقام شركات نقل العفش بالدمام
ارخص شركة نقل اثاث بالدمام
شركة تخزين عفش بالدمام
شركة نقل اثاث بالخبر

adham said...


كما انها متخصصه فى النظافة وتنظيف المنازل ونظافة بالدمام والشقق والبيوت والفلل والكنب بالدمام
شركة غسيل كنب بالدمام
شركة تنظيف كنب بالدمام
شركة غسيل خزانات بالدمام
شركة مكافحة حشرات بالدمام
شركة نظافه عامه بالدمام

adham said...


شركة تنظيف منازل بالدمام
شركة تسليك مجارى بالدمام
شركة غسيل فلل بالدمام
غسيل عمائر بالدمام
شركة نظافة بالدمام
شركة تنظيف موكيت بالدمام
شركة تنظيف سجاد بالدمام
شركة غسيل مكيفات بالدمام