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Critical tips in successfully supervising large hog operations remotely.
October 20, 2017
When your business is growing, it’s usually because you've done something right. The massive growth of United States Swine Industry tells us our customers are excited about the value position of our collective pork products. Industry revenue streams are increasing, and our team is efficiently delivering what our customers desire. While growth spurts are exciting times, they can often be stressful and force team members into uncomfortable or unfamiliar roles. It’s critically important that we all understand and embrace the quote “What got us here won’t get us there.” We must challenge ourselves to be lifelong learners, continuously developing new skills. Skills that allow us to manage a larger and more complex industry supply chain than the one we have historically managed. Don’t get confused; the goals are still the same – Healthy pigs and pork delivered at the right time, right volume and right weight result in happy customers. It’s the management strategies that must scale up – we have to be more effective and efficient to manage more people, animals, and in an ever-changing customer dynamic…more product lines. Further, we have to prepare to manage remotely. As operations grow we inevitably become more geographically diverse, many of our new operations will be much farther from home than we're used to. If we use the same skills and processes we’ve always used, we’ll simply run out of time in the day to do our job.
The first critical step in managing a larger operation is becoming skilled in managing through systems. Managing through Systems means we don’t have to be physically present at the facility to fix problems. We have SOPs, Metrics and Stakeholder Routines in place that enable expected performance. Leaders who are challenged with this approach often prefer hands-on management and need personal intervention at the operation for things to go well. Conversely, some common examples of Leaders who are skilled at Managing through Systems include:
Impacting employees and their results remotely
Implementing decision processes and routines which allow managing from a distance
Establishing three to five key metrics by role with a “shared scoreboard” regularly updated by your employees and jointly monitored by employees and managers
Having your managerial qualities and culture remain even when you aren’t physically on the farm, shop or harvest facility
To enable Managing through Systems many companies focus on two areas – Defining a Scalable Management Model and Implementing a Quality Management System. Scalable Management Models allow companies to “bolt on” new regions, pods, divisions, etc. using the same organizational structure and design in place for existing assets. Successful and Scalable Management Models clearly outline what roles are accountable for critical business metrics (Throughput, Cost and their various sub-components). The Model should define decision making routines to include who is responsible for a decision, who is consulted on a decision and who is informed of the decision. Metric report outs to management should take place routinely to streamline communication, so our discussions quickly drive to the root cause of our biggest opportunities and align on the action plans put together by metric owners.
Quality Management Systems ensure that our staff uses the best techniques and SOPs (standard operating procedures) on all operations. Consistent processes allow rapid implementation of innovation when we learn of better techniques, technologies, and products. Change is easy with a small company with a few operations – everybody knows everybody and can quickly drive change through one on one communication. This management style is impossible in a large and complex company, and as such it’s critical that we all know the same SOP book because we will never know all the people. We must seek to reduce variances in our processes if we will be successful at innovating our larger business operations in a cost-effective manner.
Last but certainly not least, successful business growth requires key partnerships and absolute teamwork. Partnerships develop productive relationships with other business that serves as a “win-win” for both companies. Business leaders must regularly solicit feedback from our customers and vendors to understand their satisfaction with our relationship, responding to their concerns and ensuring our Quality Management Systems are supporting the partnership. Teamwork within the organization is required as we all adapt to the growing and evolving company. Leaders have to strive to develop and maintain working relationships at all levels of the organization. We must value individuals for their unique talents and perspective. We have to demonstrate awareness of our personal style and its impact on those we work with. In doing so, we will establish relationships throughout the organization which “bridge the silo’s” and ensure cross-functional collaboration. Most importantly, have fun with your co-workers. We spend more time with our work family than we do with our real family, make sure people know you care about them! We are blessed to work in such a wildly successful industry. While growth can be hectic, chaotic, stressful, painful and at times just downright tough we have to always keep in mind that growth opportunities are the biggest positive reinforcement our industry can give us. Take time to celebrate the fact that we are so successful and make sure your employees know how much you appreciate their contributions to our successful teams!
DVM, Carthage Veterinary Service
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