Summary: Our factory is suffering major issues, our CEO and my manager are in disagreement about the reasons for it and how to fix it. The CEO wants me to take his side in this and help the manager to see things his way, while the manager wants me to support him instead.
I'm not certain if the title is as descriptive as it could be, I'll do my best to explain the situation in this post.
I work in a small production facility, located in a smaller village. Most (~80%) of the employees are young, this as their first job, they have been good friends since childhood and are tight as a team. The factory struggled for a long time to create profit.
I started at an entry level about 2 years ago, after a recent move. I have a lot of prior experience with both working the floor and with management, and was quickly (probably too quickly) promoted to a semi-management role. Our production manager, the highest ranking on-site employee, was fired shortly thereafter. The CEO stepped in to fill the role while looking for a replacement. Our CEO lives in a different country.
The CEO and I developed a very good professional relationship, where we both could openly discuss the daily problems our production was facing and he would listen to my advice. This led to friction between me and rest of the factory employees, as they saw me as some outsider trying to come in and snatch the management role.
The CEO asked me for my view on the situation. I suggested that he ask one of the long time employees who has a complete understanding of factory and the people working there instead. One of these employees became the production manager.
Present day, we still experience daily problems with our production. We fail to meet our production goals. Quality is bad - there are many claims and remakes. Morale is very low. This can quite easily be traced back to our current routines and processes, which there are absolutely none. Employees can come in late, leave early, regularly take longer breaks during the day (40-60mins extra break time is not rare) and there is no follow up at all on the quality issues.
The production manager seems to have a very different view on the situation. He claims that all these issues are a product of employees being overworked and the best solution is to dial down production rates for a while and let people catch their breath.
The CEO thinks that the production manager as a lot of potential. I absolutely agree. He wants me to "put pressure carefully" on the production manager and to assist him with ideas to improve our situation.
I cannot do any of these things without the manager taking it very personally and just walking away mid conversation. Any attempts I make at communicating with him always fail.
Now to my question. I feel like I'm stuck between the manager and our CEO. We have to fix the problems we are having with our production very soon, as the factory is in risk of being shut down. How should I handle this situation? I don't want the manager to get fired or demoted as that would most likely lead to our employees following him out the door. I don't want to force him to communicate either, as it seems like he sees me as someone wanting to take over his position. At the same time the CEO is starting to put more pressure on me to make this work, to get this guy to communicate and to start implementing basic procedures and routines.
Based on the assumption that I dont want to quit, that I want to keep the current manager, that I dont want to create even more friction between me and the employees and that I want this factory to be successfull, what are my options?
The prodction manager is aware of the situation and how close we are to having to shut down.
My official position is production and material planning. My "unofficial" position is to try and support the manager with implementing the basic procedures a production facility should have in place.
The manager reports directly to the CEO and i report to the manager.