On returning to a South American hatchery recently, I discovered that the hatchery manager I had worked with and seen grow into his role for the past three years had left. Together, we had made changes to conditions inside the hatchery and to incubation programmes, such that the hatchery was performing very well, with consistently high chick quality, narrow hatch windows and hatch abilities well above standard.
The 'new face' that greeted me seemed very pleased to see me, admitting that since starting his new job the hatchery's management had noted a downward trend in results.
As we toured the hatchery together, I noticed little things being done differently. The new hatchery manager could not really explain why these changes had been made and, in fact, did not even realise they had occurred.
He had many questions and, when I asked him about his training and handover from the previous hatchery manager, his answer was that he had not received any, which was a surprise to me. He had simply been given the keys. It appeared that none of the existing staff had ever had the 'whys' and 'hows' explained to them either: they simply did as they were told. For example, despite the existence of many incubation programmes, nobody knew which programme was used for which type of egg.
For the rest of my visit, I went through all the hatchery's procedures with the new manager. Having graduated five years previously, he had since managed broiler farms. He was bright and, while he picked up a lot of information very quickly, he was clearly relieved when I promised to stay in touch.
This experience reinforced my conviction that hatchery managers are not 'made' in schools or universities. They may learn the basis of becoming a hatchery manager there, but good hatchery managers grow into their job, as they build their experience, attend seminars, acquire information through training and reading, and sharing knowledge with more experienced consultants and colleagues.
A good hatchery manager will not keep his knowledge and experience to him or herself, but will transfer it to colleagues for the benefit of the entire company. And when it's time to move on to a new role, the mark of a good manager is one who takes the time to work side-by-side with a newly appointed person to ensure the continuing success of the operation - and its team!