leadership in manufacturing

Those in the manufacturing sector have a lot of practical tasks to deal with. What you may not realise is that leadership weaknesses can cause problems with these practical tasks. That’s what one manufacturing business discovered after working with Great Managers.

Manufacturers play a vital role in keeping a huge number of industries running. Without good manufacturers, every product-based industry suffers.  That’s why effective leadership in manufacturing is so important.

You need to create a smooth operation to ensure your manufacturing business keeps pace with intense demand.

Leadership weaknesses can lead to problems developing. What you may not realise is that these issues extend beyond your wider organisational culture. They can also affect the practicalities of what you do.

One client learned this themselves after working with Great Managers

A Leadership in Manufacturing Case Study

Our client is a manufacturer of both cable ducting and pit system products. Their products get used in the creation of networks underground.

The organisation has always prided itself on the quality of its products. However, it’s also quick to point towards its focus on innovation. They aim to improve the traditional construction materials of bricks and plastics. They do this through the use of lightweight plastics and their own smart design features.

This allows them to provide durable products that allow for faster installation. Naturally, this saves their clients both money and time.

Their primary customers work in the following fields:leadership in manufacturing

  • Railway and motorway construction
  • Telecommunications
  • Water treatment
  • Power

This means they have to supply a large demand. The organisation must keep track of its stock to ensure accuracy at all times.

And therein lay the issue. Our client had a stock accuracy problem and they came to Great Managers to solve it.

The Issues

For over four years, our client struggled with stock accuracy problems. They achieved consistently high error rates. This could lead to them running out of stock, which had an effect on their relationships with clients. Or, it could lead to them wasting money due to manufacturing too much stock.

The organisation’s leadership team found themselves under a lot of pressure. Their board wanted to get to the bottom of the problem. However, four years of effort hadn’t produced any results.

This caused problems within the leadership team, as well as company culture problems. The business developed a culture of blame. Each leadership team pointed the finger at the others for not finding a solution to the stocking problem. This created a fractured organisation that couldn’t focus on the core problem.

That’s the main issue that Great Managers confronted.

The Great Managers Solution

To help our client overcome its stock accuracy issues, we had to change the leadership’s mindset.

For years, the organisation’s leaders pointed to their systems as the source of the problem. They assumed there must be a problem with the systems they had in place. Yet four years of searching brought them no closer to the solution.

We showed them that it was not a systems problem. Instead, it was a lack of effective leadership skills that held the company back. The stock accuracy issue was just a symptom of a larger cultural issue. Moreover, it had led to the creation of a fractured leadership structure. Nobody trusted anyone else and everyone was quick to point the finger of blame.

We showed the organisation that they needed to overcome these leadership weaknesses to get to the root of the problem.

With Great Managers, the organisation’s managers learned about the value of good communication. For the first time in four years, they stopped arguing among themselves. Instead, they united with a shared vision of overcoming the problem.

We also encouraged them to communicate more with their people. After all, the people on the ground can often provide further insight. Our client held a number of focus groups that allowed them to gather opinions from their people. The outcomes from these groups provided the leadership with more avenues to explore.

The End Result

Our client finally recognised the importance of effective leadership in manufacturing. The group’s management stopped looking for something to blame and instead started focusing on the problem.

The business adjusted its approach. They stopped looking at the stock accuracy problem as a systems issue. Instead, they looked at it as a leadership issue.

Within six months of changing their approach, our client started to make headway. The stock accuracy error rate fell by almost 20%. That was the first positive movement they’d experienced in four years.

Great Managers has held several cohorts with this client since helping them to reach this revelation. Today, we’re helping them to overcome the management issues that operating multiple sites presents. Plus, we continue to demonstrate effective leadership skills that they can apply to the organisation’s issues.

Leadership in Manufacturing – What You Can Learn

You may relate to our client’s stock accuracy issues. You may have even found your own organisation slipping into a similar blame culture.

Thankfully, this story can teach you a lot about effective leadership in manufacturing. Here are three tips to take away from this case study.


Tip #1 – Confront Your Blame Culture

Assigning blame is far easier than trying to solve a problem.

That’s the reason why blame cultures arise in the first place. In an effort to protect ourselves, we assign blame to other people. When this occurs on a wide scale, you create a toxic culture in the workplace. Managers become so concerned with protecting their own hides that they stop working together to solve problems. Instead, they develop a “me vs. them” outlook.

Different departments start clashing, which only makes the problem worse. In our client’s case, this blame culture prevented them from finding a solution to their problem for four years.

There are several signs that a blame culture has penetrated your organisation. These include the following:

  • There’s no accountability built into your teams.
  • People don’t own up to their mistakes.
  • Your people aren’t committed to achieving high standards.
  • Office gossip has become an issue.

This problem starts from the top of the organisation. Managers start pointing the finger at one another. If your people see that, they’ll emulate you. If something goes wrong, they won’t own up to the mistakes.

They’ll blame other people or the system.

You need to confront your blame culture, which means confronting your leadership weaknesses.

There are several ways to do this:

  • Assign trackable metrics to every project. Build accountability into your systems.
  • Look out for gossip and rumours. Confront the problem when it arises and reaffirm the project’s accountability structure.
  • Take responsibility for your own mistakes. Hold yourself to a high standard and your people will follow.
  • Be more self-aware about your skills and weaknesses. Nobody’s perfect. The true meaning of leadership comes from understanding where you can improve. Only then can you set an example for others.

Tip #2 – Unite to Solve Problems

At Great Managers, we often talk about the importance of having a shared vision.

Usually, this applies to your organisation’s wider goals and mission. However, it also applies to the business problems that you encounter on a daily basis.

Our client’s stock accuracy issue was one such problem. Their overall vision is to provide high quality and innovative products. Solving the stock problem was a smaller goal, but it still affects how they’d achieve their vision. After all, they couldn’t provide a quality service if they couldn’t keep track of their stock.

That means they needed to make solving the stock problem one of their missions.

For years, the organisation’s leadership failed to unite under this vision. They came under pressure from the board and immediately started pointing fingers.

They’d defined their problem. However, they weren’t collaborating to find a solution.

Once our client saw the stock accuracy problem as a leadership issue, things started to change. The focus of the managers’ communications altered. They started talking about how to solve the problem rather than trying to pass the buck.

It’s no surprise that they achieved such impressive results once they established a shared vision.


Tip #3 – Involve Your People

As a manager, it’s your job to look at the big picture.

But leadership in manufacturing requires much more than that. There are all sorts of processes that keep your business running. However, you’re often not the person who’s working within those processes.

You just see the end results.

Your people are one of your greatest resources when it comes to identifying issues. If you’re not communicating with them, you may struggle to find a solution.

Again, you can look to our client’s example to see this. Part of their solution was to create focus groups that involved their people. This allowed them to discover process issues that the leadership had overlooked.

These focus groups also served a secondary purpose. They showed the organisation’s people that the management valued their input. This one action also shows that their opinions matter.

This raised engagement within the organisation. Our client created a more open dialogue between its management and its people. In doing so, it ensured its people felt more valued within the organisation.

That leads to better results before you even start to work on the process issues that you identify.

The Final Word

Leadership in manufacturing involves much more than creating systems and assigning tasks. You have to create a collaborative culture, especially when operating over multiple sites.

For a long time, our client did not have this culture. Instead, its management focused on assigning blame. That meant that they couldn’t take steps towards solving their stock issues.

Once they identified and confronted their blame culture, things started to change. The team united under a shared vision of solving the stock problem. This unity allowed them to identify issues that previously went unnoticed.

The organisation also started to involve its people in the problem-solving process. This achieved two outcomes. It helped the management to identify issues on the ground that they didn’t know about. Plus, it ensured the organisation’s people felt valued.

Our client identified leadership weaknesses as their core problem. This allowed them to make progress with their stock issue.

Has your organisation developed a blame culture that’s stopping you from getting results?

Do mistakes keep getting made and you have no idea why?

Do you need help confronting the leadership issues within your manufacturing organisation?

Great Managers can help you like we helped this client. We encourage you to register for our upcoming webinar to find out how to confront the leadership issues in your business.