What do you expect a production manager to do for your company?

In a company with lead carpenters, the production manager manages people and information. The major tools needed are intelligence, people skills, and the ability to multi-task. Being able to focus on both long-term and short-term goals is important.

A good production manager makes those she/he works with better at what they do.

What gets in the way of a production manager doing these things?

A truck.

Why? With a truck the production manager can carry tools. With tools, the production manager finds himself doing “a little tune-up work” or completing a project—things the lead carpenters are supposed to do.

Over time, the lead carpenters unconsciously hand off, in an unspoken way, more and more to the production manager.

With a truck, the production manager becomes a gofer. “Aw, I am going to the job site anyway and Sue needs 10 2x4s. I can pick them up at the lumberyard [or another job site or the shop] and deliver them to her.” Or: “Bill forgot to bring the ladder he needed today. I’ll throw it on my truck and get it to him.”

By doing these small tasks, the production manager has less time to do what will only get done if that person does it. At the same time ,the lead carpenters get less disciplined regarding planning ahead, for the next day and the rest of the job. Why bother going to that trouble when they have an enabler working for them instead of a manager who leads them?

If you want your production manager to be doing what will get done only if he/she does it, have that person drive the smallest car they can fit in, ideally one with as little trunk space as possible.

Set the expectation with everyone that the lead carpenters are responsible for planning ahead and the production manager is there to make them better at doing that, not fill in the gaps their lack of planning created.

Get clear with all your employees about what gets done only if they do it. Help them stay within those boundaries. Then watch your company become more and more successful.