I Hope You Don’t Like Dinosaurs

Challenges: News, Workforce

Posted by Christine Schmitz

Estimated Reading Time : 4 min.

This week’s news segment focused on a February 2019 Industry Week article asking, “What makes a great manufacturing leader?” This is a valuable, in-depth article based on interviews with established manufacturing executives and industry observers, and truly worth a read.



Assuming you haven’t read it yet, there were ten bullet points, and here they are:

  1. Builds trust

  2. Has high expectations for their people (and gives them the tools to meet those expectations)

  3. Inspires passion

  4. Has a strong entrepreneurial spirit

  5. Is a change agent

  6. Tells it like it is

  7. Encourages cross-functional teams

  8. ‘Gets’ millennials and creates culture around them

  9. Sees the competitive advantage in tech

  10. Is still an old-school, big-picture person

The author opens up with a great overview of early 20th century manufacturing leadership:

“[It] happened from the top down. It was not only dirty, dark and dangerous, it was paternalistic. Good paychecks and solid pensions meant the boss gave orders and everyone else took them. Henry Ford kept tabs on his employees on their off hours and bought out his investors when he didn’t like their advice. Forrest Mars, founder of Mars candy company, docked the pay of everyone, including executives, who arrived a minute late for work, and ‘was legendary for his extreme temper, and his fanatical behavior,’ according to his New York Times obituary.”

While this sort of bullish, micromanaging manufacturing leader may seem like some old-timey caricature of long ago, who among us has not encountered at least one of what Jason describes in this week’s podcast as, “the villain of our brand”, “that old school stodgy type that never changes.” You know, the one who walks around reminiscing aloud about the golden days of using paper versus a computer, rhetorically questioning, “Why did I ever get a CNC machine?” Please don’t even mention the words “social media.”

These are the dinosaurs of manufacturing leadership, and if you’re a follower of MakingChips then you’re also likely in agreement the time has come to stick them all in the Museum of Natural History and let the gawkers come.

Among our crew, there was plenty of discussion about the bullet points and we were all inspired to analyze how some are playing out in our own manufacturing leadership roles.

One issue Jason raised was based on his desire, “to be God-honoring” in his leadership. While the news article focused a lot on well-established business principles, leadership tools, and culture, it’s still pretty uncommon for leaders in any field, not just manufacturing, to talk openly about bringing spirituality into the picture.

According to Scotty McLennan, former dean for religious life at Stanford University, and current lecturer in the Stanford Graduate School of Business, “Business people spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and many of them want to find it meaningful. Many also want to conduct their business affairs ethically, and most of us worldwide learn our ethics through our religious traditions or through philosophical understanding of morality that we inherit from our families, education and surrounding culture.”

In 1995, Workforce Magazine published an extensive article on spirituality in the workplace, noting that, “For years, employers compartmentalized workers, carefully separating business concerns from personal identities. But productivity waned because people’s personal lives do affect their work. That’s why companies increasingly have added work-and-family programs and a variety of other benefits aimed at helping employees achieve balanced lives. So when they’re at work, they’re more focused. This focus on personal problems, combined with organizations’ valiant efforts to value diversity, have caused workers to wonder why they can’t express other parts of themselves, such as their personal missions, vision and values, while on the job.”

Defining what spirituality in the workplace looks like, or how to implement is difficult, primarily because the definition of spirituality itself varies from person to person.

It seems though, as manufacturing leaders, no matter what our spiritual beliefs are, we should all seek to be ethical leaders who value employes as individuals, seeking to support them by encouraging health and well-being both on and off the job.

Jim raised another less-talked-about issue during the discussion -- the fact that, when it comes to good business practices, “nothing’s for nothing.”

From automation to digital connectedness to leadership podcasts (wink, wink) many times we aren’t just looking for ways to improve. Let’s be honest, sometimes we are just looking for shortcuts to somehow get more for less.

Jim made a good point noting that, while he is consistently seeking to hone his leadership skills and empower his team to be better, and feels he is doing pretty well implementing all 10 of the points made in the article, there’s still no leadership tool that can circumvent hard work.

Ultimately, the one thing the dinosaurs probably got right is the work hard, play hard mentality.

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but whether you’re an established leader at the top of your field or a younger employee working your way up, the only sure-fire way to be successful is by putting in time and effort.


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