Line of Sight

Two of my employees are working out of the shop installing components we made. Their’s is not a particularly complicated or difficult job. Removing old pieces, installing hardware on the new components, reinstalling them, and painting. They are competent, responsible, and hardworking guys. They have made my life much easier and my shop more profitable.

Twice last week they telephoned me at the end of the day to tell me they needed a small part or tool replacement.They could have seen the need for those things at the beginning of the week or even at the beginning of the day. But no, they saw the need and then asked me for them right at the last minute. So I had to round up the pieces and get them to the job site by the time work started the next day.

I have tried to educate them about letting me know as far in advance as possible with only modest success. I instituted some inventory control procedures that have helped somewhat. But, in reality, I don’t expect it to improve all that much. Why?

Because, of the principle of line of sight.

The principle of line of sight says that the lower the level of the employee, the shorter his range of vision. Lowest level employees have to be monitored and told almost every move, every procedure, every step. They cannot be expected to see very far in the process. The higher the level of employee, the farther they can see.They can be expected to know, in advance, what they are going to need. They can see far enough ahead to prepare for what lies ahead. Conversely, the higher the level, the farther the line of sight. The guys mentioned in the start of this article with are on the downside of mid-level employees in this manner. They see farther than they used to, but it is still not very far.

In my shop right now we are preparing to build two quite complex projects with a great many component parts. I have spent several days creating detailed drawings and parts lists. My experience in building such pieces has yielded the capacity to know what’s coming and prepare for it. The men who will build these items have far less experience and it would be foolish for me to assume they could prepare for the projects with only a summary explanation.

I spent quite a few hours with the clients gaining an understanding of what they wanted, putting concepts to paper, creating sketches, and verifying that whet they saw is what I saw. Then I create the detailed drawings and take-off lists (lists of each and every component part). Next I check our inventory against the required parts lists. Finally I source the needed components and order the parts so they will arrive BEFORE they are needed.

Line of sight cannot be created artificially. You can’t simply promote someone to a higher level and expect that an increased line of sight will automatically come. Actually, an increased line of sight comes BEFORE a promotion to a higher level. This is not the same as driving to a hilltop. If this were a natural capacity, simply climbing to a higher level in an organization would do. While rising in the ranks, so to speak, will almost certainly cause a change in perspective, it will not usually increase a person’s ability to see farther down the road.

Increased line of sight usually increases with experience and knowledge. The longer someone works in a particular field, the greater should be their understanding of what is, and will be, required. This is because their knowledge of the job deepens as well. They know, often by failing to be prepared and suffering the consequences, what will be needed and how to think ahead. The best higher level employees are most often those who have come up through the ranks. It is their work at ground level that prepares them to see the scope and sequence of the bigger picture.

Conversely, the higher the position one holds, the less likely they will be able to see the smallest details. This is not usually due to anything other than an increased load of work crowding out everything else. You just have too much to do to be able to monitor small details. How does one handle this? Stand by for another blog article. I’ve said enough in this one.