Can a supervisor be too goal oriented?

Plant Engineer Gordon Beasley was growing concerned over the number of gripes and grievances emanating from Project Supervisor Ron Corwin's section in recent months. He asked Dave Runyan, his assistant, to look into it. Runyan blew out his cheeks.


Plant Engineer Gordon Beasley was growing concerned over the number of gripes and grievances emanating from Project Supervisor Ron Corwin's section in recent months. He asked Dave Runyan, his assistant, to look into it.

Runyan blew out his cheeks. "Ron's one of the most technically qualified supervisors in the department."

"I know he is. So why all the beefs?"

Good question, and a tough one to research. Runyan kicked it off with an informal chat with Corwin which yielded little more than frustration. Ron Corwin was as conscientious as they came; he was also a stiff and formal man.

"My responsibility," he told Runyan, "is to get the job done right and on time. Unfortunately, not everyone conforms to the same high standards."

Runyan nodded thoughtfully. "Thanks, Ron. Mind if I talk with some of your people?"

"Not at all. Why should I mind?"

He was back to square one, or was he? The assistant plant engineer next conducted discreet interviews with a few key men in Corwin's section. They were reluctant to say anything that might be construed as derogatory, but Corwin assured them his objective wasn't to lay blame, but to make the job more pleasant, harmonious, and productive for all parties involved.

It wasn't easy, but to a man two viewpoints appeared to prevail.

1. Corwin was tops from a technical standpoint, conscientiously goal-driven. For this he earned his peoples' respect.

2. From a personal and human standpoint, he didn't rate so well. He was often brusque, and lacked interest in subordinates' problems and welfare.

Armed with this information, Runyan reported back to his boss.

Question : In the plant engineer's place, how would you deal with this problem?

Beasley's strategy: Plant Engineer Gordon Beasley summoned Corwin to his office and asked him point blank: "Ron, what constitutes an effective manager?"

The project supervisor knew why he'd been summoned. "Getting the job out on time and maintaining high quality standards in the process."

Beasley smiled. "I couldn't agree more. Goal-orientation is a critical attribute and I won't underrate it. But people-orientation is equally important, human compassion and personal interest in one's subordinates. You score very high as a goal, or production, oriented manager. What I'd like you to do now is take a closer look at yourself as a people- oriented manager. Do you see what I'm getting at?"

Corwin was no fool. "Yes, I do."

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System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
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Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

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