The Value-Added Work of Management
Can we agree that as leaders, we only have one value-added job? That is, of course, to build leaders. When we wake up in the morning to get ready to go to work, our objective is ONE thing: develop people!!! Managers are blessed (challenged) with the responsibility of working closely with (thereby developing) people to build robust, bullet-proof processes free of the 8 wastes (defects, overproduction, waiting, non-essential processing, transport, inventory, motion and un-used employee brainpower). Our job is NOT to develop our offices, computers and conference rooms. Our job is definitely NOT to constantly firefight problems day after day.
Firefighting is not something you can put on the customer invoice. Your customer has zero interest in how much firefighting, pain and suffering or re-work went into delivering what they need. They won't pay for it. You pay. And it all comes out of your ability to pay your people more, which costs you the ability to recruit and develop new talent. Firefighting is a very common form of the waste of non-essential processing!
In my own business, my goal was always to be the highest paying employer in our marketplace, to be in a position to offer the best health care and to pay the highest bonuses. The goal was to be recognized as one of the best companies to work in Connecticut (achieved 5 times). This goal was realized when our processes became more robust. Our processes became more robust when our attention as managers turned away from firefighting and toward working day after day with our process experts (the people who DO the work in the factory and in the offices) to slowly, steadily eliminate those 8 wastes in every process using the process of A3.
In his 2010 book Toyota Kata, Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results, author Mike Rother talks about how 75-80% of a manager's time needs to be spent doing "improvement work". Firefighting and supervising are a far cry from improvement work, and NOBODY gets developed!
Respect for people means not sitting by (in our office or in meetings) and allowing people to do chaotic processes for a living. Humans are not fulfilled when they find themselves frustrated (and tired) doing the 8 wastes for a living with no end in sight. My hero, Taiichi Ohno, who is credited with developing what is now known as the Toyota Production System, was known as a volatile, impatient person. His frustration was not with the people who did the work, but with managers who would allow people to do bad processes day after day.
So try to remember that we have only one value-added job as managers: developing people so they don't feel like banging their heads against the wall!