INTRODUCTION TO SUPERVISION
When we speak of the management of a company, we are referring to a specific group of people who are responsible for carrying out the objectives of that company.
They set the targets, make the plans, provide the resources, and ensure that the results are achieved.
It follows that everyone from the managing director down to the foreman is included, for the difference between the two is only one of degree.
The managing director is responsible for planning and carrying out long-range objectives.
The supervisor is concerned with immediate objectives and results, and it is the cumulative results on the supervisory level which finally achieve the objectives of the company as a whole.
So the supervisor is part of management and, as such, is involved in exactly the same type of responsibility. He must:
These are his supervisory responsibilities, and they are additional to the specific 'technical' duties which the day-to-day job requires him to carry out. Examples of such duties might be:
Whether a supervisor is in charge of a machine shop, a supermarket, or an office, his supervisory responsibilities are the same, although his specific functional activities will obviously differ with the nature of the job.
We will now go further and consider the processes by which any manager discharges this supervisory responsibility.
In other words, what does he actually do? He must PLAN
He must ORGANISE
He must MOTIVATE and CO-ORDINATE
He must CONTROL
By planning, he lays out a course of action to achieve a specific result.
By organising, he distributes planned work among his people and sets up the proper work relationships.
By co-ordinating, he brings together people, equipment, and material with correct timing so as to focus the work of his unit on common objectives.
By motivating, he stimulates men to produce results, and to work together toward the objectives he has established.
By controlling, he guides the work of his unit in the direction it is intended to go.
These management processes are the things which constitute the whole working day of every manager and every supervisor.
At any moment of time they will be doing one or other of them, regardless of the functions in which they are employed or the activities for which they are held responsible. It is the purpose of this text to consider three of these in detail:
The ability to make and carry out good plans is one of the most valuable assets a manager can have. It is the first step toward easy, smooth, and certain completion of work.
It makes work easier, since the people detailed to do the jobs know in advance where they are going, how they can get there, and when they should arrive.
Good planning, when properly communicated to subordinates, improves working relationships and employee morale because subordinates know the overall plan as well as their place in it.
Good planning helps in the accomplishment of tasks by enabling subordinates to go ahead with the minimum of direction.
Having a knowledge of the total plan enables them to go from one stage to the next as a matter of course.
In summary, by good planning:
Brilliant people may well obtain fair results without much planning,
but with it average people can be made to produce infinitely better results.
There is no mystery about planning. It involves turning ideas into actua1ities by a series of logical THINKING steps.
There can be only one major objective, and this must be clearly visualised before any planning can be attempted.
It may be of any magnitude, that is, creating a sales organisation or winning a war,
but no matter what it is it must be determined exactly before appropriate plans can be made.
The task should be broken down into contributory minor objectives,
each clearly defined and each capable of detailed planning.
In this way, success in each small stage will add up to successful achievement of the whole plan.
But this sequence is important.
It is quite possible to do all the right things at the wrong time.
For instance, if the major objective is to launch a new product, people have to be recruited before they can be trained, samples may have to be available before the product can be sold, and so on.
The plan may require several minor objectives to be completed at the same moment.
Each may take differing amounts of time, and they must therefore have different starting priorities to allow them all to be completed simultaneously.
Timing and scheduling is therefore a vital part of planning.
At this stage the decisions which are necessary are:
What is to be done?
How is it to be done - resources, methods and means?
Who is going to do the job?
When is the job to be done - starting and finishing times
Where is the job to be done?
Later on, new data may become available.
For this reason, minor plans should be flexible enough to cater for unforeseen events or emergencies.
The necessary changes, however, should be made with the major obje0ctive 6tili clearly in view.
Sticking to detailed plans regardless of the events that take place (even when these clearly make it advisable to change or modify the plan)
practically invites failure to reach overall objectives.
Having considered the steps involved in planning, we now turn our attention to the way in which they should be applied. Planning must be applied downward in any organisation, but with the active co-operation of subordinate staff all down the line.
Once minor objectives have been decided at the top, they become in effect major objectives for subordinates, which they in turn will sub-divide for their own subordinates. It follows that every level should understand the planning approach outlined and should be able to allocate priorities and work out precise details. Only in this way can a really major objective be broken down into the mass of detailed activities which become necessary for its accomplishment.
In the end, only a proper job of planning by the entire supervisory staff of an organisation will ensure unified and successful action.
PLANNING THE USE OF YOUR TIME
It is therefore hardly surprising that a great deal of work goes unplanned because managers and supervisors, particularly in the lower echelons, simply do not leave themselves sufficient time to do it properly.
Planning the use of time is to an important a factor to leave to chance. Some effort devoted to finding ways of controlling its use will pay dividends.
This, then, in the important aspect of supervision which we shall next discuss.
Managers and supervisors can divide their work into four categories:
This includes such activities as assigning jobs, carrying out inspections, writing reports, attending meetings, etc. the daily activities that are necessary to keep departments going.
Then there is the special work which occurs in every department, perhaps involving some new project or some 'rush' problem.
These special jobs are generally of an urgent nature, and demand the flexibility to push aside routine and regular work. Finally, there is creative work, which includes any time devoted to planning.
There can be no denying that this is the most important part of supervision, because it is time spent on planning which leads to lowering costs, increasing quality, improving customer service, reducing scrap, reducing waste or the frequency of accidents, or improving some aspect of the business to make it more efficient.
Yet most supervisors are so pre-occupied with routine, regular, and special work that they are unable to find time to do creative work. Doing creative work takes time. To find this time, the supervisor or manager must learn how to get all his assigned work done in less than a full working day.
What is needed to find this extra time is really no more than good work habits, self-discipline, and organised commonsense.
There are no mysteries about the scheduling of time.
Three simple steps are needed:
Further time can be saved by orderly work habits.
A time saver of first importance is the practice of grouping all the items of one type of work, and accomplishing them at one time. These may include activities such as telephone calls, correspondence, personal contacts, appointments, inspections, reports, and records.
Making ten telephone calls at one sitting uses a lot less time than making ten calls at different times during the day.
Similarly, grouping interplant travel into single trips saves a lot of time. The aim should be to anticipate related items and, by grouping them together for attention, extend the working day through planned timesaving.
Unless the supervisor established a time budget into which he schedules the time necessary for routine, regular, special, and creative work, he will never get round to any creative work. He will never have time for it. He will tend to postpone even regular and routine work in order to handle the special rush jobs. A useful approach is to keep a record of daily activities in order to get some idea of the time normally devoted to routine matters, to necessary regular work, and to special jobs. After a while, this shou1d settle down into a pattern sufficiently accurate for rough planning purposes. Based on this information, a time budget can be calculated in which the supervisor:
If planning is important, so too is organisation. In order to manage, a manager must develop the kind of organisation which will carry out his plans and enable him to reach his objectives To do this:
If an employee has to take orders and directions from more than one superior, this results in:
We introduce the next principle by reminding ourselves that the most important resource at the disposal of managers is the available manpower. This is not simply a group of men and women but a collection of individuals with different talents, background, age, and experience; and with different motivations. Each must be set a task suitable to his ability. The problem is how best to do this in the interests of efficiency. At first sight, efficiency might suggest that all similar activities should be grouped together to be performed by an individual employee or a single department. This principle is called SIMILARITY OF ASSJGNMENT. An excellent example of this is the practice common in the car industry. In assembly-line production each man has only one small job to do: one might place a nut on a bolt, another run it down, and yet a third tighten it. The theory is that this breaking down of a task assures efficiency and speed, but it is possible to have too rigid an approach to this. What might happen in practice is that the work would become so monotonous that men, accustomed to doing the job mechanically, would allow their attention to wander. The result could be an injured hand or a ruined product, but would almost certainly be a drop in efficiency. The opposite extreme is to assign a multiplicity of functions to one job. Here, situations arise where it is difficult for one person to have all the skills needed to do the work, and equally poor results are likely to be obtained. A typical case is the man employed by a small, privately-owned firm and expected to perform all the functions of the business. For instance, a clerk in a small furniture store might be expected to do everything connected with the operation of the store. His job might cover everything from purchase to sales, including receipt, storage, display, selling, recording, packing, and dispatching the product. The result could only be inefficiency. In organising work, therefore, the manager must stream-line it as far as possible, bearing in mind the principle of similarity of assignment but also catering to his best advantage for the varied skills and talents of his subordinates.
Similarly, he will need to think carefully how many employees can be directed and controlled effectively by one man this number is known as the SPAN OF CONTROL. In practice, the number is very much influenced by the degree of skill involved in the work. The more routine the job, the more persons one man can supervise, because there are less decisions to be made and standards are easier to set and check. As work becomes more skilled more decisions have to be made the work is more likely to be subject to close standards and checks, and conditions and results become increasingly varied Consequently, one supervisor can direct only a few skilled persons. Similarly, span of control will be affected by the remoteness of the work force. The closer subordinates are, the easier it is to direct them and supervise their work. If a supervisor has, men scattered about the plant he can give only limited time to each. He can only see and check a portion of the output; while he is dealing with a problem in one place, his other workers will get no direction. In such circumstances he must reduce the numbers reporting to him for supervision. Again, short-term jobs are easier to supervise than long-term projects, because less direction and control are involved. In organising work, therefore, these factors must be borne in mind and steps taken to ensure that no one is given more sub-ordinates than he can properly handle. It will probably be a matter of trial and error, but the following danger symptoms must constantly be looked for:
DELEGATION OF RESPONSIBILITY
It is clear from what has been said so far that the manager or supervisor is always working through people. By dividing up work and entrusting it to an appropriate number of subordinates, he has started the process of delegation The ability to delegate is probably the most important of all the skills a manager must possess. Unless he can delegate properly and well, he can only end up attempting to do all the work himself. Yet all too often there is a reluctance to 'give sub-ordinates their heads' and to delegate work freely and completely. This reluctance arises from human weaknesses which a manager cannot really afford to have, namely:
The key question in delegation is: What work can a manager safely entrust to others and what must he perform himself? Broadly speaking, the manager should always keep responsibility for initiating plans and for final decisions, but he could safely delegate intermediate detail, and the routine operating work he would otherwise have to perform himself. He certainly should delegate:
Whatever is delegated; the following 'rules' should be borne in mind: (a) Nobody should be instructed to perform a task which is beyond his capabilities, in terms either of skill or time. (b) Delegation does not absolve the superior from his personal responsibility. If he delegates a job to a subordinate who fails to do it properly, the blame for failure must be accepted by the superior. The final responsibility remains with him and not with the subordinate. In practice these 'rules' are less difficult than they might appear at first sight. By careful selection of work, careful selection of subordinates and thorough briefing, it is possible to delegate a great deal in complete safety, and with marked increase in overall performance. The right approach can be summarised as follows:
Responsibilities assigned to an individual must carry with them the necessary authority for their accomplishment. This authority should be clearly defined and the sub-ordinate concerned should be informed of its extent. He should also be told the limitations of his delegated authority. This information should also be made available to any others who may be concerned in any way. It should state quite clearly:
We come finally to the last of the supervisory processes by which work entrusted to subordinates is made to produce the results originally planned for - this is the process of control. The results of a business enterprise are largely achieved through the control exercised by managers and supervisors all down the line. If each one effectively controls the activities for which he is responsible, the firm will function according to plan. But if adequate control is not achieved, plans will go 'off course', targets will be missed, and results will not be obtained. In summary, therefore, controls are necessary to ensure:
First and foremost, the supervisor must obviously control the quantity of work because costs are directly influenced by the amount of useful work produced per man-hour. Standards of output can be set for most types of work in which the tasks can be broken down and suitable time measurements taken. The ideal standard is one set a little above what the average worker can do easily, day after day. The responsibility of the supervisor, therefore, is to know exactly what the standards are and what each of his operators is (a) producing, and (b) capable of producing. In a similar way, he should be in a position to control the quality of work by means of quality standards - set only as high as is necessary. He will also be responsible for:
With this background, we are now in a position to see the whole of the control process summarised as a series of steps for achieving results:
If such situations arise, we obviously have not learned: 'How to Plan, Organise and Control'.