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.
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.