Telling Your Story: A Key to Success
I have had the opportunity to talk to many high-level leaders in both the public and private sectors about the importance of their in-plants. There’s a scenario that plays out in most of these conversations, and it goes like this:
At some point during the visit I’ll be introduced to the vice president responsible for printing. The VP’s name is generally uttered in a lowered tone of voice, somehow projecting a sense of power and/or respect. I’ll be escorted to a plush office somewhere in the administrative suite for the meeting.
The VP usually begins by telling me about the organization and asking for my overall perceptions of the in-plant, those sorts of things. Then he or she will get a really serious look and say something like this:
“I think [insert name of in-plant manager] is doing a good job. I get reports on impressions, numbers of work orders, productivity, waste and spoilage every month, but I’m not sure what it all means. I want you to help me understand what [in-plant manager] is telling me.”
When I hear this I can assume a couple of things. One is that the VP is not looking for an excuse to outsource the in-plant, which is a good thing. If that were the case, the conversation would have been cast in a different light, something like this: “As you know, [insert name of organization] is not in the printing business. Tell me why I should keep the in-plant” or “Should we outsource printing?”
These types of questions are red flags that signal a situation I try to avoid. However when the executive asks for help understanding the in-plant, I take that as a positive sign.
The other thing this conversation tells me is that the in-plant manager may not be doing a very good job of telling her/his story. The things that make sense at the operational level may not mean a lot to someone at a higher level. Remember that the person you report to is juggling several balls and may not be inclined to dig through the minutia to understand what you’re doing.
Related story: Managing by the Numbers
Ray Chambers, CGCM, MBA, has invested over 30 years managing and directing printing plants, copy centers, mail centers and award-winning document management facilities in higher education and government.
Most recently, Chambers served as vice president and chief information officer at Juniata College. Chambers is currently a doctoral candidate studying Higher Education Administration at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU). His research interests include outsourcing in higher education and its impact on support services in higher education and managing support services. He also consults (Chambers Management Group) with leaders in both the public and private sectors to help them understand and improve in-plant printing and document services operations.