Animal scientists and agricultural economists have spent the last several decades teaching and developing producers as they have evolved from workers to operations managers. The current and future challenge is to teach and coach their development as a chief executive. This transition to chief executive is at least as difficult as the transition to operations manager.
A business like most dairy businesses does not – nor should they have – a full time chief executive position. Herein lies the BIG CHALLENGE: How does a producer succeed as a part-time chief executive while also serving as an operations manager and probably a worker. How does an owner/leader/manager succeed as the Chief Executive when those functions always appear to be less urgent and focused further into the future?
The first step is to define the role of Chief Executive. The Chief Executive role must be more strategic, more future focused, more focused on development of the organization and its key people (see table). The Chief Executive role has three key components:
1. Establish a business direction and business culture to thrive in our quality driven business environment
2. Establish and implement a winning dairy business strategy
3. Assemble, inspire and develop a winning workforce team
“An ounce of prevention is worth of a pound of cure.” This adage is important to a successful operations manager and even more critical for a Chief Executive. Those in the Chief Executive role must recognize, internalize and operationalize that this role is the most important role. Here are three requirements to think like a Chief Executive:
• Work: Most will have to redefine what they think of as work to enjoy and be successful as a Chief Executive. A great Chief Executive succeeds by inspiring and developing others. To enjoy and succeed as a Chief Executive, work must be thought of as great thinking and successful planning not the number of cows bred or acres harvested.
• Discipline: Few of us have the discipline to operate as a Chief Executive without some structures to help us. We need help to focus on the important but not urgent. Aids include establishing a specific time for Chief Executive functions: structured meetings, engagement in activities where we rub shoulders with other Chief Executives (industry meetings, Chamber of Commerce, service organizations, executive educations programs), professional improvement plans, and formulas for getting our good ideas on paper.
• Key Values: Workers and operations managers succeed with hard work and planning. Successful Chief Executives also require hard work and planning but they also need vision, leadership, insight, creativity, and thinking outside the box.
The responsibilities of a Chief Executive are focused on developing the leadership and management processes – making certain they are in place so the business is operating proactively instead of reactively. Instead of developing the milking procedure, the Chief Executive is developing the processes of setting direction, strategic planning, human capital optimization, capital resource allocation, business performance review, information and knowledge management, recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, training and professional development, supervision, and safety. A great Chief Executive provides visionary leadership enabling the business (dairy business) to achieve extraordinary excellence over a long period of time.