A Comparative Study of the Lateral Work Activities of Three Production Managers in the UK Manufacturing Industry and the Implications for Training Production Managers
This paper reports a practical study which compares the work activities of three production managers in the lateral, organizational dimension — the dimension in which product-flow occurs. (It also draws on observations of 18 other managers in manufacturing environments.) Each manager was employed by a manufacturing company in the private sector, but otherwise the three companies are unconnected. The companies however had many structural aspects of similarity and were all currently successful in a highly competitive environment.
Our data was collected in 1983 by observation and structured recording, together with interviews and perusal of company papers. We report here only part of a much larger study of managerial activity which we carried out recently.
We explain how production managers interact with their peers to help keep the product flowing. They may have far less impact on this product-flow than may be expected. We indicate features of successful production managers’ work activities which, we believe, help to sustain success.
Our findings contrast with some of the American literature on managerial activity and call into question many of the general, prescriptive statements of managerial science, particularly those set out in managerial textbooks.
Our research shows that the work activity of production managers, at its most effective, is mainly unplanned, spontaneous and reactive to situations and incidents, whilst decisions are rarely arrived at by obviously rational means. Statistical testing of our data shows that managerial activity varies widely between the companies for what are ostensibly similar jobs. Hence it seems that to prescribe generally how a manager ought to manage is inappropriate. As a result, specifying a course of training for production management may be a more intransigent problem than it first appears. Nevertheless, tentative recommendations are made about both of these problems.
KeywordsWork Activity Manufacture Technology Production Manager Lateral Contact Rational Discrimination
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