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New Supervisor: Understanding How Your Unit Works

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/21/2006 | Jobs and Careers
When you first take over as a new supervisor, or even before, you want to get a good understanding of how things work in your unit--the specifics of the unit processes and how they fit into the larger organization. You also want to understand how people work together.

Several strategies will take you a long way to understanding your unit and its operations:

● Meet with your predecessor
● Review documents
● Meet with your supervisor
● Meet with your employees
● Meet with customers and suppliers

As soon as you can after being appointed a supervisor meet with your predecessor to find out about the work of the unit. Your predecessor will have a vast amount of information that will be useful to you in taking over as the supervisor. Make use of it.

Use the following list of items to cover in your meeting with the previous supervisor:

● Organization Chart and Other Documents review reporting relationships and workflow
● Organization Mission and Goals review strengths/weaknesses and achievements
● Unit Personnel review strengths and weaknesses of employees
● Urgent Needs review issues that need immediate attention

Prior to coming on board as a supervisor or in the first few days as a supervisor, collect and review as many of the following documents as you can:

● Organization chart
● Procedure manuals
● Policy guidelines and issuances
● Time and quality standards
● Goals and objectives
● Production reports and statistics
● Studies on unit operations and performance

Theres a good chance that you will be overwhelmed by the amount of material thats available. This may mean spending some time after regular work hours or at home plowing through the information. Carefully select the pieces you feel you need to review. Set the rest aside for some future date, if you feel that you still need to review them.

Once a supervisor, you will be responsible for seeing that your units processes work effectively in producing the products and services. This requires a thorough understanding of the processes of the unit. How can you make intelligent decisions or even talk intelligently with your employees if you dont know how the processes work? Take the time early on to ground yourself in the units processes.

Follow these steps in helping you understand your units processes:

● Identify your units processes
● Study documents that detail unit processes
● List the steps for each process
● Review the processes with your employees

Meet with your supervisor as soon as you become a supervisor, if not before, to find out what urgent needs may need your attention as soon as you take over the unit.

Get to know your employees. Become comfortable with themfind out their needs, interests, and responsibilities.

Once youve had a chance to become familiar with the processes of the unit, you may be thinking about some changes that have occurred to you. Perhaps in your interviews with employees, or even your supervisor, you have become aware of some changes in the processes that would increase the quality and productivity of the unit.

It would be very tempting to come in and start making changes right away. After all, most new supervisors want to make their mark and get noticed for the great things they do, and the sooner the better. Unfortunately, there are some serious hidden pitfalls with this type of thinking.

By some effort early on in your new supervisory responsibilities, you can make the transition easier on yourselfand on your employees and supervisor.