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Stop micromanaging your warehouse

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As I have written in previous articles, a warehouse requires good leadership to be successful. In particular, if the warehouse is largely manual. A manual warehouse is not like a manufacturing line where the pace is set from the line.

In a warehouse, the management team set the pace and do the follow up often with statistical/analytical tools from WMS. The warehouse manager and supervisors give feedback to the employees regarding their performance. The workload can vary widely in a warehouse also between departments and in/outbound. To be efficient the warehouse management needs to move resources to avoid sub-optimization.

A major challenge in this environment as a leader is not to start using micromanagement. In a good WMS, you have all the details regarding every employee. You can see every task he or she has done in every minute during the workday. For most of the leaders, this is a good thing and they can handle it in a proper way, they focus on the big picture and look at the trends over a week or month. However, for insecure leaders with controlling behaviour, all this information is too much. They start micromanaging behaviour and give feedback several times a day on individual performances. They measure everything and even have opinions on how many times employees use the toilet. They do not understand the devastating effects of micromanagement.

As a manager, you need to look at trends and long-term behaviour. You cannot look at every little detail, you need to understand you are working with humans, not robots. Every employee including your self as a manager has periods when efficiency drops. These are usually completely natural causes. There may be problems with work materials or as I mentioned earlier a toilet visit. It is extremely important that you as a leader dare to show confidence in your staff.

The statistical data should be used to look at trends in performance or if somebody systematically trying to get out of work. Then you need to have a meeting where you discuss the reasons behind the statistical data and if the individual deliberately avoided performing, the leader must explain that if this behaviour continues it will have consequences. Of course, you should be in control of your warehouse but you cannot manage people in detail. Before giving feedback, you should carefully consider the purpose and benefit of it.

We, humans, perform best when we feel ownership and that our managers trust us. That we can take initiatives without anyone watching us in detail. If you as a leader have done your job, the employees are loyal and respect the values in the company. They are fully aware of the overall goals and that everyone must contribute.

As I wrote earlier the effects of micromanagement is devastating. In a survey published in Harry E. Chambers’ book My Way or the Highway: The Micromanagement Survival Guide, 85% of respondents said that their morale was impacted negatively by being micromanaged. Then you can imagine what happens with efficiency and quality. Another negative effect is, high staff turnover, even health problems is a long-term effect of micromanagement.

To develop and maintain a good efficient, high-quality warehouse you need a great leader, not an insecure dictator with too much need for control in details. 

Roberth Karlsson is a logistics expert and the author of

Photo: Pixabay