From Line Producer to Manager: Clearly Defining the Differences

Before you interview, you want to analyze the actual job itself for behaviors it requires.

When it comes to taking the step from line production to management, whether an internal promotion or an external hire, it’s essential to be clear about what differentiates the two roles. Many have found out the hard way that success in production is not necessarily an indicator of success in managing that same job. Why not? And, more importantly, if experience “doing it” doesn’t predict who will manage others effectively to perform in the same capacity, what will? Most often, it’s assumed that the role is basically the same with just a few more responsibilities, and this is where the issue lies. Who to hire is a critical decision, and with 43 percent of bad hires resulting from a need to fill the position quickly, it makes sense to be better prepared upfront with a definition of the job for a manager and how it’s different from a line producer. This helps you to set expectations and to better spot what you’re looking for in a candidate.

Defining Success and Setting Expectations
Instead of rushing or making assumptions, analyze three areas of the role that later will be included in your job description. Begin with the duties, tasks and responsibilities: a great place to start, but unfortunately, where many job descriptions also end. Here is where you think about how much time should be allocated to each. For example, 20 percent of a manager’s time may be spent leading and developing others; this wasn’t part of the job of the individual contributor. This responsibility can add several new tasks such as creating work schedules, taking disciplinary action and providing performance feedback.

Next, create a list of five to ten measures that can be quantified and compared objectively with one manager to another. These are called key performance indicators, or KPIs. To help with these, think about how you’ll review the manager at the end of the year. At that time, how will you measure success? What does the work of an exceptional manager look like compared with one that is average? How about a manager whose performance isn’t up to acceptable levels? Know what the minimums are and think about a realistic time frame to get there. And, keep in mind that what gets measured gets done. If you want someone who in the past only focused on their own production to now refocus and see the whole team’s production as a reflection of their performance, you have to measure them that way. This shift can require that a manager approach their work, and the people they engage with to make it happen, very differently than they did before.

What’s Needed in a Candidate
Now you know what the job of a manager entails, how you’ll define success for them, and you can clearly set expectations for their performance based on all of this once they’re hired. Great! But, before you interview, you want to benchmark the position. This means analyzing the actual job itself for behaviors it requires. Knowing this increases the chances of making the transition from producing on the line to managing. Research indicates that 71 percent of companies have found personality assessments to be a strong predictor of job-related behaviors. The predictive index (PI) includes a specific tool called performance requirement options, or the PRO, that does this. After identifying these behaviors with a validated tool such as the PRO, you can further validate the results with your successful incumbents. The PI provides insights on your people, including your candidates for comparison with the behaviors required by the job of a manager, making interviews more efficient and effective, and identifying current producers who have high potential for management.

A manager who is expected to dedicate 20 percent of his or her time to leading and developing their team will need to take a different approach to making decisions and prioritizing their time than an individual contributor. 

Sometimes a transition from the production line to the management team is a successful one. Other times, it’s not. Taking a good look at the two positions and what makes them different so you know who you’re looking for (before you have an urgent need to fill the position) is the best way to know when you have found the right candidate.