Employee Accountability


From original questioner:

I run a commercial cabinet shop with 12 employees including office staff. Office staff is great, no issues there. About 6 months ago I had to leave the shop, and move to the office.I then handed it off to my best employees. I have two guys running the shop. My best guy has been with me for 7 years. He knows the cabinet side of the business very well. I have another guy who shows promise but isn't the most technically proficient guy in the shop. Most of the employees answer to him. He answers to the 7 year guy. I have it set up that way because of the type of custom work he is doing he cant constantly be pulled off of what he is doing. We have a problem finding qualified help. So, finding someone else to do what he is doing isn't in the cards right now.

Since I left the shop all the structure, and policies I have set up have slipped. Employees are basically doing what they want with no consequences. I do what I can but being in the office full time makes it hard. The business is better off with me in the office, and the bottom line says so. But I know it could look better with a shop that is held accountable.

Here is what I am asking. What should I do to hold my leadership accountable? What should my leadership do to hold their help accountable?

From contributor Ji

What you have is experienced employees leading other employees. You do not have a manager. You put your most experienced employee in charge of the shop as he knows how to do all of the steps. What you need is to find a manager that knows how to manage employees and use the experienced employee as a resource. But leave the managing of the rules and policies to the manager.

When you put the employees in charge, did you find out if they were comfortable with disciplining their coworkers? Did the experienced want the job to supervise for just the money or because they know how to supervise? Just because someone knows all of the operations of the shop does not mean that same person knows how to manage it. It is a different skill set and attitude to supervise, enforce policies and rules, maintain quality and timeliness on deliveries. You were doing this before you went into the shop.

As far as holding your leadership accountable. Do they want to be held accountable? You know what to do. You know how to hold them accountable. Whatever the standards and rules are, they are to be enforced. If they are not, get rid of your supervisors. Back to my questions, do they want to hold their coworkers accountable? Managing takes training and learning. Not everyone is a good manager just because they are a great employee. Two different skill and mind sets.

Don't have to be great employee to be a great manager and the opposite is true.

If your current supervisors will supervise, perhaps they need training in how to manage.

From contributor La

Well put, Jim. I've struggled with the same issues. Am now putting a much younger guy in charge. Will it cause hard feelings, probably. But he is the best candidate. Will still have a shop foreman for getting production done. There will always be a problem of having "one of the guys" enforcing the rules.

From contributor Do

If you want to manage it you have to measure it.

Your problem is you are trying to fly a 737 with no gauges.

Create a graph of weekly production (production is stuff that you can bill for) in an excel spreadsheet. Then put a trend line in the graph.

Every week you go over the graph with your foreman/manager.

You might think that won't work because we have long term jobs and huge peaks and valleys. That is why you have the trend line, and why you may want to reduce the batch size of the jobs to create a more steady flow. Which is one of the Lean precepts.

The advantage of managing this way is it makes the job objective and removes a lot of opinion from determining what to do, It creates a benchmark to plan from, it allows you to set realistic goals, it creates accountability, it relieves you from trying to look over the managers shoulder, it creates morale as the workers will know what is expected of them.

But you are right this is a key area.

As far as creating individual graphs go it is too much minutiae and subject to errors and cheating. I would make the shop manager responsible for keeping an eye on workers. They cannot slough off or bullshit him as he knows what is getting done. They might be able to do this to you because you are not on the shop floor.

BTW do not issue orders directly to employees only give them to your shop manager otherwise you take him out of the loop and gets the worker in trouble with the shop manager because he is not doing what the shop manager told him to do.

BBTW set up an organization chart to show whose job is whose. Very important for the company and for the workers to know what they are responsible for IOW where they fit in.

BBBTW The importance of policy cannot be overstated. Not just holidays or vacation but a list of things that you have run into that caused trouble and how you alleviated the problem. E.G. Once we fire someone we never higher them back because it never works out or all raises are weighed according to the workers production and not according to how long he has been at the shop or this type job is done in this sequence and in as small a batch as possible to alleviate bottle necks or on all long distance installs we pay the workers when they arrive at the job and if out of town we pay per diem or we have policy of having high production (even if the work is custom) this way everyone keeps a good pace.

Then make sure everyone knows these policies so that everyone is on the same page.

From contributor ca

From the book 'Today & Tomorrow' by Henry Ford:

"Labor works along under any system. There is little or no concern in the shop whether the best method is being used, whether the best results are being had from the materials and from the motions of men; it is a day's work just the same. The difference in a day's work is in production value, and this is the business of management."

From contributor La

Well put Henry! Still true today.

From contributor Do

Since my post was met with overwhelming reticence, I will reword it.

Employee accountability, yes the question is the answer.

IOW make them accountable.

From contributor Ca


What is your end goal for making your employees "accountable". Are you looking to improve their effectiveness or dis-incentivize the ones who are not effective?

Many years ago I hired one of the best cabinetmakers who ever worked for me. At the time I hired him I was looking for someone to run the shop. When I asked him if he had any experience at this he said he was currently managing 14 guys.

I just neglected to ask him whether he liked managing people or not. As it turns out he did not like to manage but if you left him alone to build he was like a one man army.

Production management usually suffers in woodshops because "managers" confuse keeping people "busy" as somehow being correlated with productivity. In some cases you're probably better off to actually have them read the newspaper than just keep "busy".

If the guys aren't doing their job on the shop floor it is because you aren't doing yours as company owner. Your job is to prioritize whatever it takes to set up viable task management systems. If you're just looking for a silver bullet you're going to be sadly disappointed.

The role of production management is not simply passing out tasks and monitoring status. Production management is the process of establishing best methods, sequences and locations, ie, continuous improvement.

From contributor Le

Hi there,

All great comments below from everyone. I back them all up and add the below:

A direct answer to your question: MANAGE !!! You will need to find your own style of management.

Some training/books from: Jim Collins, Jack Welch, Michael A. Roberto, Peter Principle.