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Readying Engineers to Accept Managerial Responsibilities

For those engineers who aspire to become managers, a comprehensive exposure to the topics reviewed in this book enhances their readiness for being selected when such managerial opportunities arise. Knowledge is power. The new knowledge gained from this book can motivate engineers to experiment and to excel. They accumulate experience as they systematically correct their own deficiencies and practice interpersonal skills, decisionmaking, problem solving, delegating, cost accounting, strategic planning, project management, and team coordination. Both the new knowledge gained and the experiences accumulated provide them with a decisive advantage over other management candidates.

Engineering managers must be able to lead. This is particularly true in the dynamic marketplace of the new millennium, which is affected by sophisticated communications tools, operational excellence enablers, flexible supply chains, and business operations of global proportions. Operational excellence enablers are tools that are Internet based (see examples discussed in Chapter 12). These tools enhance the efficiency of product design, project management, plant operations, facility maintenance, innovations, knowledge management, marketing and sales, enterprise resources planning and integration, and procurements. Since programs and projects will become increasingly interdisciplinary and complex in the future, decision-making is likely to involve the use of web-based tools and the participation of team members who have divergent cultural backgrounds, value systems, business priorities, and work experience. Also much needed is the push for technological innovations, which many engineers are particularly qualified to provide. Those engineering managers who are innovative and have both technological insights and business savvy will have opportunities to create significant value for and be richly rewarded by their employers in the new millennium (Cooper 2011).

This book is written to prepare STEM professionals to become better technical contributors or engineering managers to become better leaders in technical organizations, so that all of them will add substantial value to their employers in the new millennium. This book shows that certain management principles do not change over time (Griffin 2012). However, management practices do change in response to changes in customers' needs, employees' attitudes, business models, technologies, organizational structures, resources, and external business relations. Managers must be able to lead and manage these changes.

A good strategy for young STEM graduates is to learn the fundamentals of management (principles, skills, functions, roles and responsibilities, success factors, etc.), and then seek opportunities to actively practice these skills, functions, principles, and management roles. Opportunities to do so may exist in professional societies and volunteer organizations (e.g., the United Way, churches, boy scouts, and girl scouts). As more management experience is accumulated, proficiency will result and allow the engineer to naturally stand out when management openings become available in the future.

Example 1.1

Several U.S. universities offer the academic degree program that is concentrated on engineering management. Others have developed the degree program for management of technology. Are they fundamentally different from one another?

Answer 1.1

These two types of degree programs are essentially similar, with minor differences in the course work involved. Both programs are aimed at training managers to become managerial leaders in technology.

The management of technology degree program was envisaged to correct a deficiency noted in the U.S. educational system (National Research Council 1987). This degree program is designed to address important management issues, such as those enumerated here, which were neglected in the master of business administration program that existed at the time:

  • 1. Integrating technology into the overall strategic objectives of the firm
  • 2. Getting into and out of technologies more efficiently
  • 3. Assessing and evaluating technology more effectively
  • 4. Developing better methods for transferring and assimilating new technology
  • 5. Reducing new product development time
  • 6. Managing large, complex, and interdisciplinary or interorganizational projects, programs, and systems
  • 7. Leveraging the effectiveness of technical professionals

Currently, the degree programs in engineering management offered by many U.S. universities address these topics as well.

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