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Supervision and Management

Supervision and management are actually two different things. Supervision is the direction of people at work and management is the planning and control of the work process. A person can be a supervisor (direct people at work) without being a manager and a person can be a manager (planning and control of work) without supervising anyone. In most workplace situations many supervisors also do some management and most managers also do some supervision. It is important to realize that supervision and management are two distinct and different activities requiring two very different skill sets.

Supervision and management within the bureaucratic framework permeate all aspects of our lives except immediate family relationships. You need to realize realize that this is learned, not instinctive, behavior. The management, supervision and bureaucratic system we use was created by the Sumerians approximately 4000 years ago. It gradually spread over the earth because it is a more efficient way of accomplishing work. This new way of thinking about work has changed our lives dramatically and is second only to the discovery of fire in its impact upon the human condition.

Supervision - The direction of people at work
The direction of people at work is the most difficult of all production related tasks. Supervision means constantly functioning in a state of flux and ambiguity and few people feel satisfaction from being a supervisor. The reason this is worth mentioning is because many new supervisors feel that something is "wrong" when they are constantly faced with problems relating to their workforce. This state of flux and ambiguity is normal to supervision and success is measured in percentages rather than absolutes.

All work requires the coordination of effort. We accomplish this by giving workers assigned tasks and assigned time in which they are to accomplish these tasks. But just giving instructions is not enough. You must give clear, specific instructions on what is to be done, monitor the worker in the course of their efforts and hold them accountable for specific results. These three elements; specific instructions on what is to be done, monitoring them periodically to make sure it is being done, and making the employee accountable for the results are the core of the supervisory process. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to do this. Workers who do not receive good instruction and direction; who are allowed to do work incorrectly without correction and who do not have a review of their performance have not had proper supervision and hence have not been allowed to perform properly.

Specific Instruction
Monitor Efforts
Accountability Review

Supervisors also need to be aware of the role they play in the system. Many new supervisors see supervision as a "satus reward". Just like workers supervisors are accountable for results and represent the organization, not themselves. The supervisors' job is to make work more efficient and as such they are a resource for the worker. This view of supervision, as the supervisor supporting the worker to make work more efficient, is the correct one.

 

Management - The planning and control of work
All but the simplest tasks require planning in order to be accomplished with the best utilization of time and resources. The basic method of controlling work is a four step process. Work begins with a goal of what is to be done. The next step is the development of a plan to do the work. Here managers decide what segments the work will be broken into, what time it will take to do the work, what sequence things should be done in and how much resources will be expended. The third step is to monitor the plan as it is being executed to see that the work is proceeding according to the plan. The final step in the work control process is to take corrective action on those things which are deviating from the original plan.

Goal
Plan
Monitor
Correct

It is important to remember this four step process because it is common to all work control situations. You, as a manager, may only be involved in a part of the process, but no matter what your role, a knowledge of the four basic steps, Goal, Plan, Monitor and Correct is essential to your success in controlling work.

 

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