Machines to Management

Learn how to push the productivity button.

Machines to Management

Learn how to push the productivity button

As the scale of agriculture gets bigger, farmers find themselves in the people management business. There's more land to farm and what you used to manage with your own equipment and a staff of one now has to be managed with at least an additional person. This adds complexity. 

Think about it as a transition from managing machines to managing people. Let's talk first about the similarities. In the past, you learned how to get productivity from machines. You figured out what buttons to push, in what order. When the machine made a strange sound you learned how to repair it. Keeping it highly maintained typically provided the best results. How can this process be translated to human interaction? 

Learn how to get the most from your people. Here are some "buttons to push."

Input the correct data. Give employees a great understanding of what is needed. The use of "standard operating procedures" on the farm is the best way to establish a pattern of what needs to be done and how. Write these procedures down. Walk through them with your people. Make your expectations clear. It's like programming a machine by pushing the right buttons.

Repair. Sometimes things break down and it may be due to a communication problem or a disagreement. Nip it in the bud. Confront it. Use courage to catch the problem early and correct rather than letting it fester and create ill will. There's a book called Crucial Conversations that can help you through some of the tough conversations that need to happen from time to time. This is even more critical when employees are family. 

Maintain well. We can think about this with regard to employees in a couple of ways. First, don't run them ragged. If you have a demanding time coming up (like planting or harvest), give them a little time before or after to rest up or recover. A machine that's overtaxed is not going to perform well. People need rest and recovery as well. Another area of maintenance has to do with the employee psyche. A person is more likely to be engaged and love what they're doing if you ask their opinion now and then, include them in decision-making as often as possible and show appreciation to them. An engaged person is more likely to have energy for the job. They will give more without wearing out.

The difference when managing people

When we move from working with machines to people, the most critical difference is communication. I talked a little about this as data entry or knowing what buttons to push. A critical difference is that the machine doesn't need to know why. A person generally desires to understand the back story - why something is done this way or that. Help them understand. Give them the back story.

It's like pushing the productivity button.

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