Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #2

This is the ninth in a series of posts that will describe what the CEO of the Reliance Electric Company thought about basic commitments, how the organization was going to operate and ground rules for managers. Once again, all the content of this article is based on the work of B. Charles Ames as outlined in his management manifesto titled Basic Management Concepts dated January 14, 1974.

Organization and Staffing – Ground Rule #2

“No manager can afford to fill first level management positions with people who are not going anywhere.”  Just let that one sink in for a while.  How many times have you seen a reasonably competent contributor promoted to a first line supervisory role, only to become toxic in a management position?  If he were writing today, Ames might have said something like don’t allow the Peter Principle to enter your organization.  That is, a “hierarchy where every employee tends to rise to their level of incompetence.”  It starts with first line supervisors.

Ames cautioned that the management pyramid in any organization narrows quite quickly as you move up the hierarchy.  Allowing marginal performers in first line supervisory positions limits the opportunities available to more talented individuals.  At the shop floor level it is also a leading cause of labor problems and unionization.

Look at first level management positions as a proving ground…a proving ground that tests first time managers. Consider the first management position a proving ground that provides experience for people with high potential.  Make it a proving ground for people who appear to have the capability to grow.  Or, in terms of the Peter Principle, select candidates based on their potential performance for a future role rather than their performance in their current (first line supervisory) position.

Turnover in these first line management positions is only a problem if it too low.  It is weed or feed time, right now.  The entire organization will become bogged down by B Players “clogging the first step of the management ladder.”  If you have experienced B Players in first line management positions, you have experienced mediocrity.  Good people become frustrated.  A Players quit.  A Players go to a competitor or another organization where they are given the opportunity to prove themselves.

First line management positions are the proving ground for developing great people.

Chuck Ames and his wife Jay currently manage the Ames Family Foundation.  They divide their time between a home in Vero Beach, Florida and a second home in a suburb of Cleveland.