What the miller needed, to take the place of the boss's years of experience, was a chart like the one on the opposite page--a graphic outline in skeleton form of his work's vital element.
What a different aspect could be put on many an employee's work if the employer, instead of depending on the man's own-farsightedness in seeing the main items of value in his work, would graphically put them before him by some such chart as this one!
Right here, however, we must guard against one important characteristic of this vital element.
It CHANGES--or at least it _may_ change as the business develops.
Ask the manager of the circularizing department of a certain mail-order house. He will tell you it's VOLUME. All his other problems have been stabilized except the single job of getting out enough circulars every day to keep the required volume of orders flowing in. Again, go to the circularizing room of an Eastern financial house and the manager will tell you that the vital element in his work is QUALITY--quality addressing, quality folding and so on. Here the whole success of the department depends upon reflecting the dignity and prestige of the house. The danger point with this manager is therefore touched by anything that might affect the quality of the work.
Many a manufacturer starts with limited capital. For the first year or two the vital element in his business is finance. He may have to sacrifice attention to production and sales problems in order to guard the slender balance in the bank. Sometimes he may have to pay higher prices for materials because he must buy in small quantities; he may even have to check sales because he hasn't the capital with which to finance them. Later, though, as a reserve is built up, or when better credit is established, he will find the vital element has shifted to manufacturing, buying, or maybe sales.
A certain shoe manufacturer--we seem to gravitate toward shoes every so often--found manufacturing the vital element of his business a scant dozen years ago. His big job was to see that shoes went out the door. He doubled the size of his plant. In the short s.p.a.ce of three years his problem had shifted to one of sales--he was no longer getting enough volume to fill his plants. And today his greatest concern is his shrinking bank balance.
The same tendency toward change will be found in individual jobs.
The traffic manager of an electrical supply house deposes that the vital element in his department's work changed completely in less than two years.
"When I first came here," he declares, "the business had grown faster than our manufacturing facilities. We were always working close up to the contract date for delivery. I was hired simply because I had a reputation for being able to speed up shipping, pick the shortest routes and rush things through at the last minute.
"Later on, we got in better shape in the factory. The goods began to come through to us further in advance of the promised delivery dates. I noticed this and changed my methods. Where I had previously watched after speed alone, slapping things into any old case to get them packed, hustling them out by any route which would save a day, regardless of rates, I now began to pack more carefully, to sort mixed shipments in order to get the lowest classification in freight rates, to pick the cheapest routes, and so on.
"One day the chief called me in and gave me a raise.
"'Warren,' said he, 'I thought I'd have to fire you when we got past the rush stage. I had you down as just a speed demon. But you have been wise enough to change your methods as conditions changed. And I want you to know we appreciate it.'"
A similar shift is noted by the managing editor of a well-known business paper.
"When I took hold five years ago, it was a constant fight against time.
We never had quite enough material on hand. There was always a mad scramble at the last moment to put the book to bed. Night after night I stuck around writing fillers--a column here, half a column there.
"Today it's quite a different story. We have a carefully selected inventory from which we make up our schedules at least 60 days ahead of publication. We have figured out close production dates--and we stick to 'em. There's no longer the problem of digging up enough eleventh-hour material to get out an issue. The job is one of selection. My biggest care is to find room for all the things I know our readers are interested in."
A constant check is the safest way to note in time the conditions that govern the conservation of the welfare of your job or business. Check the POINTS ABOVE THE LINE and watch the POINTS BELOW THE LINE.
That constant effort to measure the importance of all the things that come up before him by their effects above and below THE DANGER LINE will do much to keep a manager practical. For summed up, the "practical" man is the one who combines with his progressiveness and vision the knack of never letting his progressive ideas puncture the vital element of his business and bleed it to death.
Make your score in any form that fits your needs or your tastes, but MAKE IT--WATCH IT--ACT ON IT. Some men can do the scoring in their heads. Most of us, even in so simple a procedure as keeping our golf scores, find it's better to carry it on paper.
On paper? Can a man with real work to do, spend his time plotting curves and making pie charts? Does the Knack of Managing depend upon a man's ability to draw pictures?
Not at all. If that's the impression you have gained from reading this little book, go back to the beginning and start all over again.
If, from time to time, charts and diagrams have been suggested, it is only because the successful manager has somehow or other to go through precisely those same motions. His job--if he is to understand it and manage it successfully--must be analyzed somehow, sometime. We have merely suggested ways in which the analYSIS can be made more easily and intelligently by means of charts.
His operations must be planned--in his head or on paper--if he is to perform them with the least lost motion, lost time and lost money. The Knack of Managing has simply gathered from other men's methods a form of chart by which PLANNING can be done more accurately.
Again, his work must be organized--if it is to be done in the simplest and best way. An attempt, then, has been made to sift the organization methods of successful managers and firms to develop a chart which at least indicates how to go about ORGANIZING THE WORK.
"HELP" MUST BE HANDLED. So, from the experiences of shrewd managers, we have dug out the gist of their ideas and put it in the form of a chart that gives a basis on which to work.
Above all, a business or job must be CONSERVED AND CARED FOR. The charting method suggested is but the method used by every successful manager--though he does not take the time to reduce his plans to paper.
And last, in our search to acquire THE KNACK OF MANAGING, have we not learned that the fundamental principles of management are universally applicable?
More than anything else we have seen why the manager who has made a success in one business can step right into another and make the same brilliant record. His business, after all, is not ships or shoes or sewing machines. It's MANAGING. And that job, in its fundamental principles, is the same, whether it's running the U. S. Steel Corporation or operating a peanut stand.
That's our story--and we'll stick to it.