A Focus on Management

Production Machining has added management topics to its editorial lineup this year. Here’s a look at how the continuous improvement strategies mentioned in this month’s management feature can apply well beyond the management level.


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Probably because of its broad definition, management is one of the most common jobs in the world. Nearly every organization has multiple managers—from shopfloor managers to office managers to IT managers—handling all kinds of functions. The job titles reach well beyond our industry, including restaurant and retail managers, bank managers, baseball managers and so on.

What does “management” really mean? In business, the term is often connected to being in charge or control of other personnel. But of course, besides people, many things need managing—time, workload, materials, budgets, and so on. The list goes on, and the tasks flow to people far beyond those designated as managers. When it gets down to it, most people are managers of some sort, whether the word is in their job titles or not.

Many years ago, I held the title of production manager (with Modern Machine Shop magazine). In this position, I was responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the magazine, mostly making sure the magazine was put together efficiently and on schedule. Basically, I managed tasks rather than people, and while other people were doing many of the tasks, they did not officially report to me. Teamwork was important.

Around that point in my career, I decided to go back to school, taking night classes to work toward a degree in management. I felt that some additional knowledge about dealing with people could go a long way. It didn’t take long for me to remember why I didn’t enjoy school much; I lasted only one semester this time. But fortunately, book smarts aren’t a requirement for being a good manager.

Life takes some interesting turns. I’ve been in my role as PM’s editor-in-chief for a little more than a year now. This is the first job I’ve had in which other employees report to me. Fortunately for me, I’m surrounded by a great team of self-sufficient people who need very little (if any) managing. But I’m here should someone be needed to step forward when the buck stops. Being immersed in a management (of people) role, rather than only seeing and being impacted by how other managers do their jobs, has given me a new appreciation for what the job entails.

Excellent firms don't believe in excellence—only in constant improvement and constant change.

Tom Peters

This month we discuss continuous improvement, followed by workforce development in June, purchasing capital equipment in August, and firing customers in October. We’ve carefully selected these topics based on conversations we’ve had with some readers who have expressed interest in and a need for more information regarding related issues and others who have told us about innovative approaches for handling challenging situations in these areas.

While many of us can relate to each of these topics in our work environment, this month’s “continuous improvement” topic (and how it correlates with workforce development) can hit closest to home for those of us looking to improve (better manage) our individual work environments. Check out “Adopting Continuous Improvement Processes as Company Culture.” Several machine shop managers provide their views on the importance of continuous improvement and offer strategies that have worked in their companies to improve employee satisfaction while also increasing production output. Many of these strategies can be applied all the way down to the individual level, where a person can discover ways to simplify his or her routine.

Don’t be afraid to experiment to find what strategies work best for you. There are many ideas. Not all apply to every situation. Be open-minded to ideas from anyone. Look for efficient, time-saving solutions. These can go a long way in making difficult tasks more bearable and freeing up time for more significant activities. And finally, whatever effective changes that are made should become part of the routine so that they are habit.

Whether managing a team of people or one’s own day-to-day projects, positive morale translates to more energy to get the job done. Happy people work harder and look forward to the satisfaction of accomplishment.