The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 5 (September 1, 1928)
Production EngineeringPart XXIV. — Developing Executive Ability
I never hesitate to take a leaf out of the book of another man's experience—provided, in my judgment, he is right.
John Van Deventer, editor of the Engineering Magazine, published a number of (what are considered) noteworthy articles on Management. One of them, by John Calder, on “How to Develop Executive Ability in Foremen,” seems to me to answer in a slightly different way a question (which is often asked me) on the failure to get recommendations following our annual staff review.
I have to admit cutting down Mr. Calder's long article into very short space, but this is the meat of it as I see it. It is worthy of study.
He says:—“There are twelve main qualities needed by foremen today, viz., trade skill, knowledge of production methods, physique, energy, thoroughness, observation, concentration, judgment, tact, control, fairness and loyalty.”
(Photo. A. P. Godber.)
High Speed Friction Rail Saw, installed at Hutt Valley Workshops. This machine will cut a 9 inch channel iron in 22 seconds. The saw blade is made of mild steel, and cuts its material by friction. (Under the old method—with a cold saw—the time taken to do the same work was 35 minutes.)
Here are his observations on some of these qualities:—
“I saw a dog sniff a third rail once. He was full of information in a moment, but he was a dead dog. He died of intensive education, an overdose of facts Such a fate will not, however, befall any foreman or executive who will concentrate three or four hours a week getting a thorough working knowledge of how our business is run, and of the universal rules of production. A certain amount of study is necessary to keep our information up-to-date in order to keep out of the T.B.M. (tired business man's) class.
Tact is most important in a foreman. Unfortunately, the tact of a great many executives should be spelled T-A-C-K, for, as displayed, it is of the sharp-pointed, flat-headed variety. Study your men, and realise the fitness of things, in order to get the best results from the men who work for you.
Energy is a quality that must be considered. We all want a man who can get a move on. If a man is phlegmatic, he cannot lead men to good production, yet no one ever made good by merely entering his department like a whirlwind, and leaving like a tornado. Such an attitude takes away rather than adds to, the energy of the men. Noisiness, too, is no evidence of page 47 efficiency. Some of the best foremen I know, say few words—but every word weighs a pound.
A foreman must also have thoroughness. If there is anything wrong in a shop, and a foreman offers a plausible explanation, no one will contradict him at the moment, because no one knows differently. Personal observation must be thorough; shallow views of the business in hand will not do.
Observation is a necessary trait. Some people use their eyes, but do not see anything of importance or anything worth remembering. The cultivation of memory is a matter of real importance in this connection.
Health counts for a lot in a foreman. Good all-round health is essential, so that the mind can be applied to the men working for him. A shop goes to pieces if employees get to saying “how do you think the old man is feeling to-day?”
To be able to concentrate on and finish a job, is an essential qualification. Lots of people have ability, and yet never get anywhere, because they flit from this to that, never finishing anything. You must be able to concentrate on the job in hand and deliver the goods.
To be wise in the right way, you have to get the facts accurately, through concentration, observation and thoroughness and by scientific methods, not guessing. Then add your own experience, and then what you know other people have done, and then put them all in your thinking machine for a decision of your own.
In order to emphasise the necessity of giving clear instructions to workers,—a group of foremen at a lecture were told that workers think rather in terms of things that they can see and handle and not in ideas, in other words in the concrete and not in the abstract. To the chagrin of the instructor the yard foreman spoke up “You did well, but you never said what proportion of cement, sand and gravel to put into that concrete.”
Watch out that your instructions are understood correctly.”
A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words that he is wiser to-day than he was yesterday.—Swift.