A Great Explanation of What a Manager “Does”

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Posted by: briansittley Comments: 0 0 Post Date: February 22, 2018

We noticed a great closing article the March 2018 issue of APICS Magazine, by Randall Schaefer, a CPIM and retired consultant, on how he once described his daily routine to his boss, and how it became an inspiration to others.  We’ll reprise his story here…

Schaefer’s career covered 50 years in supply chain beginning in the 1960s.  He recalls a time of no computers and resistance to procedures and discipline.  Then came computers, at least for accounting.  By the 80s he found managers finally embracing technology.  Then at a new organization, Schaefer endured his first performance review and found himself “on the wrong side of the company’s expectations.”

Apparently, he notes, the general consensus was that he didn’t do anything.  Subordinates and superiors all agreed, he notes.  Now in truth, Schaefer points out that he “trained my subordinates well and… brought our department’s metrics to all-time highs.”  But people noticed that he was not stressed out or always resolving some minor disaster.  They decided he wasn’t busy enough.

When his boss asked Schaefer to describe his daily routine, he told him he had none.  His style was to ensure that subordinates were following the disciplines and processes he’d put in place.  His only routine was to continually assess whether those processes and procedures were still valid.

His manager thought a manager ought to personally handle more tasks, rather than delegating.  But as he notes, his results were undeniable.  Thus, notes Schaefer, “he could only advise me to change my ways” and “I disregarded his advice.”

A year later, his metrics were even better.  His boss hated it.  He was changing the expectations.

Years later he applied for a job in the automotive industry.  In an interview with the president, Schaefer was asked to describe his management style.  He decided to play it straight he says, even if it might kill his chances.  “I don’t do anything,” he told him.  Then he says he smiled and added, “At least, that’s how it appears to others.  I learn every process, procedure and discipline in my areas of responsibility.  I teach each one to my subordinates and expect them to be followed routinely.”  They knew to come to him if something wasn’t right so he could fix those things.  In short, he noted “I have been very successful and would like to continue this success at your company.”

The president smiled and nodded, saying “I agree with you.  The busiest-looking managers rarely get the best results.”  And then he offered Schaefer the job.

On his first day, the president asked Schaefer to write down the description of his management style as he had shared it in his interview.  The president wanted, he said, to memorize it because an old boss of his had also once accused him of not doing anything.

And that may be the best definition of what a manager “does” that we have ever heard.

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