This is a true account of how a change in management style can have a big impact on the performance of an individual, their team as well as their business.

The story is set in a factory that printed and bound children’s books in the UK in the late 1990’s.  The business was struggling against tough foreign competition that could print and bind books more cheaply.

The factory had a manager who was responsible for the whole site, planning, purchasing, manufacturing, warehousing and logistics.

This manager was a very traditional manager.  He had been promoted from the shop floor into supervisory, shift manager, department manager roles until finally he was responsible for the whole site.

I call him traditional because of his style.  He liked to keep control of everything, could be very dictatorial (‘when I want your opinion I will give it to you), and was almost obsessive about cost.  He did not really trust any of his managers, he thought that they all wanted his job and if he did not tell them what to do all the time they would get things wrong.  Because he was so cost focused, he didn’t like to spend money and thought training and development was a total waste of money.   If any of his managers needed to spend even the smallest amount they had to seek approval from him first.

The consequence of his style and approach was that his managers only ever did what they were told to do, they rarely went the ‘extra mile, were not very engaged and many had divisive relationships with their colleagues.

The consequence for the manager himself was that because he disempowered his team and wanted to control everything he worked long hours and was often stressed.  He also couldn’t understand why his team would not do more and take some of his work off him!  He was focused on URGENT tasks but rarely did he complete any IMPORTANT tasks.

The ultimate consequence on the business was that it didn’t respond to the changes in the marketplace, and did not have the levels of productivity and responsiveness needed to compete.

The manager retired and a new person took on his role.  However, this person did not have the detailed technical knowledge of his predecessor.  He was not from the printing trade and he knew that he did not have the skills and experience to tell his managers ‘what to do’.  We will review how he changed the performance and culture of the business is the next news article.