Line vs. Support -- Line managers may not be as susceptible to layoffs as support teams, if recent and historical layoffs are any indication. Line managers are more direct revenue producers, while support managers are generally at best indirect producers, and worse, treated as cost centers at many companies. So if you want to protect your job, turn your focus to line managers. Identify the top three line leaders in your customer group and think how you might be able to assist them. Are any of their projects sitting on the back burner that would be easy to finish? Have you overheard of any technical or process issues that are frustrating them? Find out the details with someone you already know in those groups, and work out some solutions you could offer. Research other firms that your solutions have worked at, and verify internally that your solutions have not already been tried at your firm (and failed). But, be careful not to give away your ideas! Then introduce yourself to the top dog and ask him/her for 15 minutes over coffee to help solve problem XYZ (be specific). At your meeting, be direct and to the point – verify that you understand the basics of their problem, that you have researched it (so demonstrating you’re not wasting their time), and then highlight the potential solutions you can offer. Finish with some quick name dropping of the other firms that have solved these same issues using your idea, and then ask for their thoughts.
Production vs. Management -- Whether or not you work in manufacturing, there is always some aspect of every company that is considered “production” – that provides the final deliverable to your firm’s customers. Similar to Line Managers vs Support Managers above, Production teams are the heart, the bread and butter of your company. There is obviously a very fine line here between Production Management and Executive Management. From my experience, in the tense environment of potential layoffs, I suggest it will be easier and more productive to meet with and build relationships with Production Managers and their teams. As you would for line managers, find out what production managers’ and their teams' pains are and identify a way to help. Perhaps a seasoned business analyst (a key to many firms’ success) is struggling with your latest software package, or the warehouse manager doesn’t have time to finalize the internal technology audit documentation requirements. It could even be as simple as configuring the area printer or wi-fi node to notify IT instead of the business manager when it has an error condition.
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