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Productive Busy vs Lazy Management Busy

I used to run a cross-loading facility. Anytime we had a new supervisor I would introduce the following scenario during our first meeting:

"This is a two-part question, so wait to answer until I finish.

Part 1 - As a manager, is your job to:

A) Keep your people busy


B) Get most out of your people?

Part 2 - It's 10am and you go to check on the crew in the loading dock. As you are about to turn the corner you hear someone telling a story and a bunch of laughter. You turn the corner and see then entire crew standing around cutting up, not working."

Question 1: What do you do?

Question 2: Revisit the first question. How would you respond?"

They typical response was, "This is a trick question, right?" I love new supervisors...they can smell a learning opportunity a mile away.

Anyway we'd then go into how it was our fault the loading crew wasn't busy. And not just any type of busy; productive busy.

Your job as a supervisor is to know the difference between Productive Busy and Lazy Management Busy (sorry to drop the super technical terms on you, but we are talking management science here).

Productive Busy - Work that helps the company produce/save more money

Lazy Management Busy - Work that keeps people busy so management can justify their paychecks

We pay the loading crew dock crew to load and unload. If there isn't anything to load or unload, is that their fault? (hint: no)

Having some time to cut loose at work and crack some jokes between jobs is a good thing. People gathering around the water cooler or chatting it up at work from time to time is a good thing as well. It's good, right up to the point where it affects production. This is where you, the supervisor should be proactive with guidance on expectations.

Let the office folks know you hope they spend time talking with their teammates, but not at the expense of their responsibilities. Recommend the loading team always setup for their next job as part of the load crew checklist.

Just remember: each recommendation needs to be Productive Busy (proactive) not Lazy Management Busy (doing stuff just to do it).

Taking things one thing further, I always had a "Things To Do Between Jobs" list for my maintenance and office teams. It was things like:

  • Refill bench stock

  • Validate the backroom inventory, order any short items

  • Clean the tools

  • Check the copier paper

  • Clean out a filing cabinet

  • Update your continuity book

Remember our managerial responsibility is to develop our subordinates while helping the company make money. We're supposed to keep our teams gainfully employed. Think about all the side tasks that slow down work and get them on a responsibility chart for your teams. This way, if they have spare time they have something productive to do with their time.

Knowing the difference between Productive Busy and Lazy Management Busy will help grow your subordinates and get the most out of your team.



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