First Line Manager: The Possible of the Impossible

If the Wright brothers could have made a jet; we would not have a biplane. They took the materials in their bicycle shop to make the first machine of flight. The brothers poked a hole in the impossible by doing the possible. Generations of people rushed through that hole in the impossible. We now move around our globe in jets.

First line managers can poke holes in the impossible. We have chances to change processes and attitudes in our company and departments. But this is what we often hear. That is not the way we do things. We can’t do that. It will not work. Corporate does that not us. Older employees can’t do this. Young employees are different. Don’t be stymied, move ahead by doing the possible of the impossible.

When I come to the dispatch center, we receive electrical inspections from the cities by fax. One employee releases the orders and files the paper releases. He set up a process to file each release monthly in folders. He keeps these folders for two years and then discards the files. The employees in marketing, customer service, and engineering contact him to inquire about a customer’s inspection release. He is the only employee to release orders in these inspection areas. I ask him to change to email of the releases instead of faxing and filing them. He will not change; he says it will not work.

This employee leaves our department for a few weeks. I contact each city and set up the emails. I go to each department manager explained the concept of their employees releasing inspections for our customers. I destroy the paper files; then, instruct each employee to set up an electronic file for the releases. Now every employee with the knowledge of the electrical release can release orders for our customers. No more phone calls to our department, each employee with the knowledge will take action for our customers. When the employee comes back to work his process is gone. No more filing; no more phone calls. The bottleneck is gone.

Training in our company is a centralized process. We rely on trainers from corporate to train our employees. This is way it is. The company purchased a new computer program for order completion by lineman. Corporate established a team to train our lineman. Several employees will travel to each division to spend several days training employees. The process includes eight hours of training. A trainer rides with each lineman for a day. This training includes a day of training for the dispatchers.

Our division will train differently. We will train our lineman. We meet to decide if we can do this. We agree we can. The corporate trainers do not agree. They say our training process is not effective. We get our managers approval to go ahead. We design the training process. I write a manual for the linemen. I will teach the class. The foreman will help during the training.

The training process starts months before the classroom training. The dispatchers create dummy orders; then dispatch the orders to the lineman. The lineman complete the dummy orders. The lineman comes to the class knowing the process. The class is four hours not eight. The class is just a review of the process they were doing.

This is a completely different process than corporate training. The training process requires no riders for the lineman. Linemen leave class ready to go to work. If they need help they contact their foreman. Their foreman is on the training team. The trainers stay in the division to support our lineman. This training process is effective and saves our company several thousand dollars. I coördinate this training process. The trainee’s train each other, what a concept.

Here is the point. We remember the Wright brothers; they poke a hole in the impossible. We do not remember the hundreds of companies; or, the thousands of people who moved through the hole on the way to creating the jet.

First line managers are critical in the process of achieving the impossible. We take our abilities and the abilities of our employees to make small possibility holes in the impossible. First line managers and employees squeeze through these small holes in the impossible. This is what we do; this process leads us to conquering the impossible.

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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