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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 2 (June, 1926)

Production Engineering — Part II.: Organisation and Leadership

page 30

Production Engineering
Part II.: Organisation and Leadership

During last year a great deal of re-organisation work was put into operation, and is already showing “good.” But there is a great deal more re-organising to do if we are to get into the front line of efficiently run business institutions.

In the history of the Department, there never was a greater need for men with the qualifications of leadership than there is to-day. Every change in method demands men—men to carry out the scheme; men to carry on after initial installation, and to carry it forward enthusiastically just as they would if every penny they owned was tied up in the success of its development.

Maybe you have had the wrong training, and have never been allowed to use your own initiative; the reception given your suggestions has so stifled your interest that it is dead. Are you going to let it stay dead? You will be left behind if you do.

A year ago each of our main rolling stock repair shops had an organisation consisting of six foremen, one over each of the principal trades, and a workshop manager. When an analysis was made of each of these officers’ duties, it was shown that they were attending to official correspondence a large part of their time—work that clerks could do better; supervising the men, directing the work, arranging next jobs, seeing about proper tools, seeing that men had proper instructions, looking after apprentices, what should have been their most important work, received the minimum portion of their time. I want to say they worked, in most cases, like Trojans, and often put in overtime to catch up. They did it because the men before them had to do it. Coupled with this, a foreman often had men maybe in every shop in the works. How could he supervise them? He couldn't, and when the ratio of men to supervisors was worked out, it showed that we were asking the impossible.

Now these organisations have been changed and approximately seven additional assistant foremen have been added to the staff at each workshop. Instead of the organisation being purely related to tradesmen, it was changed to relate to work and shops. In the first place the whole workshop was divided into two sections, locomotive, and car and wagon, and a General Foreman was placed in charge of each section. Under the General Foreman are the foremen of each shop; the change in this case being that the foreman of a shop is responsible for the output of that shop, and of all the men in it, whatever their classification. Where the number of men employed warranted it, assistant foremen have been appointed in charge of specific sections of the work. Leading hands have charge of individual gangs as formerly.

At each Workshop, also a Production Office has been established to schedule work through all the different departments, so that co-ordinated effort is obtained. This department follows up the work daily, and records all delays for the purpose of preventing recurrence, and it also traces material required from other departments, stores, or workshops.

The number of avenues of promotion have thus been multiplied. The chances of any man getting ahead are greater and, incidentally the problem of finding leaders is increased. Developments are also taking place in other directions. Modern shops are being provided, modern machinery is being procured to replace the old, and, to bring our shops up to date. Modern methods must follow.

The attitude of the boss of any department concerned is the first indication of his ability as a leader. Does he succeed in getting his men to “give it a good go,” or does he know beforehand that it is “no good?”

Leadership does not mean the ability to make a big noise and to call men down. Down in our hearts we all know quite well that the most fooled boss of old was the “big noise” who would “shake up” the shop. He fooled himself most of all, because he did not realise the injustice of his action and the lack of co-operation he actually brought about. We are done with driving methods.

The modern substitute for this type of leadership is a real knowledge of one's job. Build up your personality on facts and persistent effort. Remember that the changes being made are not experiments. They are the proven results of the experience of engineers page 31 and managers of eminent standing; but in every case they need adapting to our conditions, and as such, require your brains, too.

Leadership demands obedience to instructions first, then, after you have got going see how you can make improvements. But don't start in on improving before you do get going. That way you waste your boss's time as well as your own, and you can't afford to allow that to happen. Get a clear understanding of all instructions and obey them, but don't say you understand if you don't. Don't fool yourself.

I find it difficult to find words to emphasise the need for leaders; men big enough to see the future; big enough not to be petty. The Department cannot afford to test out doubtful men, any more than any business man would dream of doing so. It's up to you to prove yourself.

I would like you to read, line for line, the following extracts which I have made from an address on “Leadership,” made by Major Bach, to graduate officers during the war. Its wartime message of inspiration was of incalculable value, and its peace-time message to railwaymen is undisputable. Every word applies to us all, and applies in our own department:—

A Commander must make good with men under, not above, him, if he would truly win success.

To lead, you must know—you may bluff all your men some of the time, but you can't do it all the time. Men will not have confidence in an officer unless he knows his business, and he must know it from the ground up.

If the officer does not know, it is entirely human for the soldier to say to himself, “To Hell with him, he doesn't know as much about this as I do,” and calmly disregard instructions received.

Many instances will arise to try your temper and wreck the sweetness of your disposition. If at such times you “fly off the handle” you have no business to be in charge of men.

Be an example to your men, don't preach to them—that is worse than useless. Live the kind of life you would have them live and you will be surprised at the number that will imitate you. Your company will be a reflection on yourself. If you have a rotten company, it will be because you are a rotten captain.

Fairness is another element without which leadership can neither be built up nor maintained. First treat all men justly. You cannot treat all men alike. An officer who applies a standard punishment for a given offence is either too indolent or stupid to study the personality of his men. In this case Justice is certainly blind.

When one of your men has accomplished something creditable, see that he gets the proper reward. Turn heaven and earth upside down to get it for him.

Use judgment. Don't ask any man to go where you would not go yourself. Study men. Get under their skins and find out what is inside. Some men are quite different from what they appear on the surface.

The foregoing applies equally to all leading hands, foremen, managers, not only in our Branch, but in all Departments. It applies everywhere in offices, stores and yards. If your thought is that “it doesn't apply to me,” believe me, you are asleep and don't know it. To those in the ranks, I commend equally the study of this subject, in preparation for their future advancement, and also because a mutual understanding always makes for contentment, co-operative action, and mutual trust. This, above all things, must be attained. The leadership of the future must come from the ranks, and who can hope to be a boss if he does not study the boss's job in readiness for the day when the boss moves forward. “Push the boss ahead,” is the slogan worth while, and it is real. Back him up with a service that stamps the character of your department on him. It cannot fail to reflect on you also. Let everybody get in line.