They don’t know what we do!
Here are two questions we should all be concerned about:
• How do you know your print shop is doing a good job?
• How do you know it’s not?
The answer to the first question is fairly straightforward, as long as we can frame our performance in ways that demonstrate organizational contribution. The problem is that we often don’t do that. Sometimes we fall back to print-speak and try to tell management about the importance of JDF workflow, color curves or CIP4—things they could care less about.
The second question challenges administrators to think about their assumptions. Why do they think there might be a problem and what should be done about it? What I see in my assessments and in my studies is that the more upper management understands about what we do and why we are important to the attainment of organizational goals, the more likely we are to survive. It’s that simple.
All too often we—in-plant managers—put our heads in the sand and hide from management. I used to run a shop that was about 15 miles from the central office, and I saw my boss once a week for his regular staff meeting. His assessment of my performance? He’d say “Well, I didn’t hear anything bad about you so you must be doing a good job.” That was how he decided that I was doing a good job. Needless to say his comprehension of what the print shop did was shallow at best. And if someone at the executive level had asked that other dreaded question, “Should we outsource printing?” he wouldn’t have had an answer.
I had to take it upon myself to tell him what was important. And why. So we sat down together and had a conversation about his expectations. I asked him what kinds of things would be important for him to know. He didn’t know much about printing, so production stats weren’t of much interest. Or Use. But he was an accountant, so budget performance was very important.
We ended up with a list of things that were of use to him. It included basic production data because I explained that an overall impression count framed my activities and allowed us to track performance over the long run. Then we broke the impression count out by strategic operating units, and that helped administration understand how we supported the various programs in the organization. Finally we reported on ways we had reduced the cost of print jobs by changing paper size, weight or whatever, and we included any savings in the monthly report. In the end we had a single sheet of paper that he could understand, and use.
One way to let management know that you’re doing a good job is to tell them. But don’t overwhelm them with TMI (too much information). I’ve seen shops where the print shop manager kept detailed spread sheets counting everything under the sun. They had a lot of data but little information. And their bosses noticed.
It’s all about telling your story, not only to your boss, but also to the organization. You need to let people know what you do and why it’s important. If you wait until someone asks, “Should we outsource printing?” you probably waited too long.
What about you guys? How do you “tell your story”?