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Schwan Corporate Review

Synopsis

We interviewed six individuals who report directly or indirectly to Bob. Interaction with Bob through these people includes past knowledge of him (by reputation), attending staff meetings, one on one meetings, daily encounters, recruit interviews. These individuals have known Bob over a span of months to multiple years, and under other management circumstances.

Everybody observes that Bob is very intelligent, articulate, deeply experienced in the technical process of production, applies an excellent financial analysis background to managing the plant and is highly skilled in presentation and sales to customers. Many comment that he possesses a strong vision for the plant’s direction toward further success, and is future-oriented.

They all feel, as much as they have individually observed, that Bob is receptive to negative feedback, accepting it with respect and without rancor. There is no sense of retaliation forthcoming. Further, with some he proactively seeks out critical feedback.

Everyone commends Bob for the logical flow and organization of his staff meetings. The meetings allow for dialog in a respectful atmosphere, but there are some observations that speak to Bob’s management style in the meetings:

  • It is sometimes not clear “who needs to do what when.”
  • On occasion, Bob does not elicit enough detail or research before a decision is made: a decision he makes alone. Bob’s decision is final, though the process leading up to that is fairly participative.
  • Sometimes, he makes his own decision despite serious reservations from his managers. There can be a sense of impulsive decision-making.
  • Often, there is lacking pragmatic follow-through from the meetings.

All who report to Bob feel he holds himself personally accountable for his own decisions that result in untoward events. He does not vocalize this (as in saying “It is my fault.”), but he does not pass the blame.

The area of most concern with people who report to Bob is that he does not hold the members of his personal team accountable for their performance or their follow-through. Bob is viewed as overlooking the failures or weaknesses of his team who are given key responsibilities. Several say Bob needs to relocate them, reposition them or develop them. On development, many reporting individuals observe that Bob is not grooming his team. He needs to recognize that his team needs significant skills cultivation to accomplish his own goals. “Bob is more focused on numbers than people,” says one. With the training of non-managerial staff, he often neglects to do training follow-up.

On Bob’s relations with corporate, many of our reporting interviewees observe that he does not fully understand the nature of corporate interaction. Bob is regarded by most as possessing outstanding communication skills. Yet, there are occasions where he will neglect to communicate new approaches or important announcements to the employee force.

 

Corporate

Interviews in the corporate level included five individuals. They have known Bob for a number of years, spanning Schwan’s evolution over a decade.

In toto, the corporate leaders observe that Bob is superbly aware of his plant management in the business sense, holds a strategic overview, is very facile in numbers and P & L statements, speaks well, is extraordinary in his adaptation of plant equipment, innovative (considered the most innovative plant manager), and genuinely wants to do the right thing for the company, is personable and gets along well with people, admits when he is wrong when events are brought to his attention.

All these pluses come with the recognition that Bob possesses a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, and much of his drive and capacity revolves around this characteristic. Corporate leaders are aware that plant managers “have their own worlds.” Bob is viewed as holding this attitude the most of all plant managers.

Almost everyone observed that Bob needs to spend more time on the floor, daily talking with the supervisors and line people to have a much richer sense of the day to day spirit and operation of the plant. It was stated that with a daily overview of the life of the plant’s floor, it would be easier to solve problems.

While Bob is noted for his fluency in speaking, it was also noted that he is not often a good communicator—in the sense of communicating the flows of innovations, plans or solutions down to the plant force or up to corporate. Tangential to this communication flaw, Bob is observed by the corporate leadership as not holding his team accountable for their responsibilities and innovation assignments. Execution means accountability. Bob does not want his people to look bad. They also feel Bob needs to put a lot of time into developing his team, noting that he has surrounded himself with his own people, while eschewing manager candidates sent from corporate.

In observing Bob’s leadership style of staff meetings, they notice that, unlike other plant managers, Bob does all the presentations—not cultivating his managers in their own self-affirming and participatory skills.

A significant area of reflection for Bob is his propensity with corporate to bring in problems without solutions, to not follow up on expected reports to corporate, to be more voluntarily open and forthcoming with corporate, to be more generous in taking blame. Many hope Bob will recognize that the corporate leaders are there to help him, not hinder him.

 

Peers

Interviews with peers consisted of two individuals, who have known Bob for a number of years.

The peers are very impressed with Bob’s management of the construction of the Germany plant, and its subsequent operating management. They observe that Bob is excellent on the accounting and metric side of the plant management, and has a keen understanding of the product and market. They also note that Bob’s transition through various sizes of facilities put him into a very challenging situation when he took over the Ming’s operation. They note that the Ming’s operation presents particularly difficult circumstances because of its past management (that Bob took over from) and the cultural expressions of the work force that Bob needs to understand and cultivate. They feel Bob is very trustworthy. They note he is communicative with them on similar plant concerns.

While Bob is exceptional at innovations and the numbers, these peers feel he needs to dramatically improve his people skills. He needs to be working prominently and consistently to sincerely communicate on both a personal and leadership level with his work force. A typical comment is, “He needs to get into the hourly welfare type stuff.”

It was noted that Bob is not mentoring his team as much as he should, and sometimes does not recognize the value of a key manager. He needs to follow the process of putting the right person into the right place. Further, in communication, he needs to connect more with his people, to insightfully self-reflect and apply ways to motivate his plant employees, to take the time to understand the culture or mix of cultures. In one statement, “People are his business, not making more pizzas.”

In management style, there is an observation that Bob is overly autocratic—perhaps, as they observe, because the German operation was autocratic and ran well that way. The advice from peers is that Bob needs to transition quickly into a participative management, and that he needs a developmental perspective.

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