What a Plant Manager and Town Mayor Have In Common | Darrell Edwards | Industry Week

leadership-dictionary-page“If there is ever a time to discuss the similarities between plant leadership and politics, perhaps during an election year is as fitting a time as any.  Some time ago I was attending a class at Columbia University, and over a conversation at lunch with a professor, we discussed what a day in the life of a plant manager was like (I was a plant manager at the time).  After a bit of conversation about my typical day, the professor said, ‘It’s like you really are running for election as town mayor, aren’t you?'”

Sourced through from: Plant Manager/Town Mayor

Michel Baudin‘s comments:

In my presentation on the Lean Leadership Role of the Plant Manager at the Lean Leadership Summit last month, I used the ship captain as a metaphor, but the plant manager as town mayor is enlightening as well. The abstract of my talk was as follows:

The plant manager is like a ship captain, in daily contact with a team that may range from a handful to thousands of people, and accountable to an organization that is remote and has entrusted him or her with a valuable asset. The plant manager is the voice of top management to the plant and of the plant to top management, and represents the company to the local community. Of course, the plant manager must know how to pay bills on time and let maintenance use qualified technicians to fix forklifts, but there is more to the job, particularly about Lean leadership. The plant manager implements corporate policy but does not make it. If top management has adopted Lean, the plant managers can make it succeed or fail.

In addition to making operational decisions, the plant manager also has a symbolic role to play in project leadership, and in recognition to teams and individuals. Inside the plant, a manager with local roots will have more influence than one on a three-year rotation. One who is frequently on the shop floor wearing the same overalls as production operators and eating in the same cafeteria has more influence than a “suit” in the office, but the plant manager must not undermine the authority of middle managers, supervisors, or engineers by issuing instructions or directives in their purviews. Outside the plant, particularly in small communities, the plant manager is interviewed in the press or on TV when first appointed and when building a new facility or closing one, or when accidents occur.

A manufacturing company’s plant managers have a key role to play in leading its conversion to Lean. As such, they deserve special attention, that they have received only in Japan.

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One comment on “What a Plant Manager and Town Mayor Have In Common | Darrell Edwards | Industry Week

  1. Town mayor is probably a better analogy. As a past mayor, your description of the role of a plant manager mapped pretty closely to my (unwritten) job description. This is an idea worth developing – even as a thought experiment.

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