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Management Challenges: What’s your biggest beef?


For this installment of the Reader Panel survey, we asked our panelists to share the ups and downs of their profession — we wanted to hear it all! What areas of management did they find the most challenging? Did they think more experience, skills training or a larger budget would help them become better managers? What are some of the day-to-day management issues they tackle? The February 2001 Reader Panel survey uncovered some interesting facts about the importance of management skills in your profession and revealed some helpful advice for PEM readers. We received 35 responses to our survey, and here are the results.

1. What is your job title?
Here’s a quick summary of who responded to this question:
operations manager (6), maintenance superintendent/manager (6), lead hand maintenance, chief engineer, president (2), plant engineer, service supervisor, maintenance foreman, prof. of mechanical engineering, instrumentation technologist, warehouse manager (2), facility manager, project coordinator, project engineer, electrical project engineer, statistical engineer, production manager, mill supervisor.

2. How many people do you manage on the plant floor?
A. One to five: 9, or 26 percent
B. Six to 10: 8, or 23 percent
C. Eleven to 20: 5, or 14 percent
D. More than 20: 9, or 26 percent
E. I don’t manage any employees: 2, or 11 percent

3. Which of these areas of management do you find the most challenging?
(Check all that apply.)

A. Forecasting staff requirements and selection of maintenance personnel: 10, or 15 percent
B. Job analysis and design:
15, or 23 percent
C. Labour relations, collective bargaining and grievance procedures: 10, or 15 percent
D. Managing time and stress: 19, or 29 percent
E. Other: 11, or 18 percent

Here are some of the additional comments we received in support of these answers:
– "Managing performance of marginal employees."
– "Managing petty quarrels and arguments between shop employees."
– "Labour-based, mindless unskilled work."
– "Trying to explain to my supervisors that codes must be followed."
– "Updating factory equipment, processes and tradesmen to meet business changes."
– "No union protection."
– "Forecasting future needs."
– "Prioritizing … we put out the daily fires and try to keep the equipment running."

4. Is there anything that would help you become a better manager?
A. More experience: 10, or 20 percent
B. More training: 16, or 33 percent
C. Larger budget: 13, or 27 percent
D. Other: 10, or 20 percent

Additional comments:
– "Training."
– "Ability to manage without intervention from my visionless boss."
– "Continuous improvement, therefore all of the above."
– "Better union management cooperation."
– "Some assistance with duties."
– "Additional support staff."
– "More hours in the day."
– "Ability to delegate longer term projects to specialist subordinates."
– "More people and more specific expectations from upper management."
– "More qualified employees."

5. What are some of the day-to-day issues you face as a manager?
– "Employee conflicts."
– "Employees who aren’t empowered or want to make decisions without my concurrence."
– "Dealing with other managers and supervisors and trying to find common ground on our needs and interests."
– "Working with incompetent managers who are not held accountable for their work."
– "Time management."
– "Working with a less-than-adequate budget."
– "Proving expenses that move us ahead, not just keeping abreast of technology."
– "Employees who don’t follow established procedures."
-"To keep our organization prepared for future demands, including keeping up with the new technology."
– "Staying ahead of the competition."
– "Convincing employees that they are not retired yet."
– "Continual downsizing and loss of key tradespeople."
– "Keeping employees fully engaged and keeping work in the shop."
– "Finding enough time to do things thoroughly.