Who leads who on your dairy?

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When Eppinga dairy relocated from Washington to Texas six years ago, it grew from 350 cows to 2,000 cows and four employees to 25 employees.

The first step the Eppingas took in organizing the new dairy was to create an organizational chart. “The organizational chart helped us to define work areas and where people would be positioned,” says Gay Eppinga, co-owner of Eppinga Dairy. “When we started, we realized just how much an organizational chart helps. From the very beginning, we knew where we would need employees.”

Here is why an organizational chart or “org” chart can be a useful management tool for your operation:

Who leads who

Dairies can have one or several owners, which can be confusing for employees, points out Tom Fuhrmann, veterinarian and owner of DairyWorks, a management-consulting firm in Arizona.

“An org chart provides employees with information on who leads who,” says Fuhrmann. “The dairy owner’s position on the organizational diagram varies from dairy to dairy. Just because you are the owner does not mean you are the leader or the manager.”

You may argue that an organizational chart is unnecessary for your operation or that your operation isn’t big enough for one. But, you can benefit from an org chart even if your dairy has only five or six employees, says Don Tyler, employee-management specialist with Tyler & Associates in Indiana.

“If you don’t have an org chart for your dairy, employees won’t know who the leaders and the boss are,” notes Fuhrmann. Indeed, an org chart tells employees who to go to in different situations. 

Provides clarity

In addition to defining who leads who, it clearly defines the lines of authority, especially for new employees.

“New employees are strangers walking onto your dairy. They need to know who is leading who on your operation,” Eppinga says.

“New employees may struggle if the lines of authority aren’t clear. Employees need to know who they are responsible to and where they fit in the organization,” says Tyler.

An org chart helps employees identify their role, understand who is at the same level, and how they can contribute to where the business is headed, says Greg Squires, manager of Dairy Enterprise Services, a dairy-business-consulting service.

There are always those employees who think they have more power than they really do, Tyler notes, and an org chart can help in these situations.

Consultants will also benefit from the org chart. “Veterinarians, extension agents, nutritionists and other consultants that you utilize can talk directly to the manager in charge of a particular area,” says Fuhrmann.

Defines work areas

An org chart helps define works areas and teams of workers on your operation.

Having defined teams allows workers to get together to define goals for each team. “When you set goals, this allows you to utilize key performance indicators to measure results and improve your operation,” Fuhrmann says.

“An org chart also provides you with a checks and balance of your staff,” says Squires. “It can help you match employee skill-sets with teams of workers and assign work areas.”

This provides for an enabling work environment and helps to foster more “we” than “me” thinking.

 The organizational diagram fulfills three purposes:

  • Defines teams
  • Limits and defines authority and responsibility
  • Encourages establishing goals, the results expected of each individual or team.

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