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I would like to welcome you to the monthly newsletter for March. As we all know the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is currently having a big impact on many aspects of our lives. In this worrying time, I would like to send best wishes for the health and safety of all members of the ASEM community as well as their families. COVID-19 now looks to be a global pandemic and while different countries and corresponding governments are responding in different ways, I think it is important that such a response should be guided by experts – scientists and clinicians (including epidemiologists) – so that the strategies adopted to mitigate the impact of the pandemic are evidence-based and rigorous. Such an approach is consistent with our own values as engineering managers.
During this current period, many of us are working from home where possible. Universities are in many cases delivering teaching via online systems and this has resulted in significant challenges and disruption to ensure the online provision was made available in a timely fashion. Also at universities, student members of the society are clearly impacted by the current situation and will be concerned about their own education and research work and how the required commitments can be fulfilled this academic semester. Members of the society from industrial companies and governmental organizations face challenges associated with their own work responsibilities and the need to work from home if possible. These certainly are challenging and one could even say unprecedented times – and I very much hope that our collective efforts will help to minimize the deleterious impact of COVID-19 and that our normality of life, work and study will resume as soon as possible.
I also wanted to pass on that we are carefully monitoring the COVID-19 situation in regard to the 2020 International Annual Conference scheduled to take place at the end of October in Denver, Colorado. This is still more than half a year away and currently the conference preparations are continuing as planned – There are no changes to the technical paper submission and peer-review process, and we currently expect to hold the conference as planned. However, we will continue to monitor any new developments and ensure to keep members informed if any changes need to be made. Although please be rest assured that in the event the conference is disrupted by travel restrictions due to COVID-19, conference registration fees will be refunded.
I would like to conclude this introduction by highlighting the excellent news that ASEM has recently published the 5th Edition of the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge Guide (EMBOK Guide). The EMBOK Guide serves as a foundation for certification exams, curriculum development, and professional development programs. The guide can be viewed as a foundational reference for the discipline of engineering management. I would like to offer my thanks to Dr. Hiral Shah (Editor) and Walter Nowocin (Associate Editor) for their leadership and dedication on the production of this key publication for the Society. I would also like to thank all the chapter authors for their hard work and contributions to the new publication.
Stay safe and keep washing your hands.
Dr. Simon Philbin
Dear ASEM Members,
Given the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments, we would like to provide an update on ASEM's response to the situation. First of all, we send our best wishes to all our members in the United States and around the World. Please know that the health and safety of the ASEM community that you are all a part of is our first priority.
The ASEM conference committee is closely monitoring the situation. Since the 2020 International Annual Conference will take place in Denver at the end of October (28th to 31st), which is still over seven months away, all of the conference preparations are continuing as planned. There are no changes to the technical paper submission and peer-review process, and we currently expect to hold the conference as planned (https://asem.org/2020-IAC-Call-for-Papers).
We advise you to follow the paper submission and registration deadlines as usual. We will continue to monitor any new developments and keep you informed if any changes need to be made. Please be rest assured that in the event the conference is disrupted by travel restrictions due to COVID-19 your conference registration will be refunded.
Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or concerns. We hope to see you in Denver.
As engineering managers we have a natural interest in science and technology, including how technologies can be commercialized for practical benefits. Indeed, commercialization of technology for industrial purposes has been undertaken across many applications and of course for many years. Historians have described in detail the Industrial Revolution, or First Industrial Revolution, as the period from ca. 1760 to 1830, where the manufacture of materials transitioned from hand production methods to the use of mechanization and machines in factories.
Growing up as a boy in the United Kingdom in the county of Nottinghamshire (famed for the legend of Robin Hood), I recall visiting a place called Cromford Mill, which was the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill – developed in 1771 by the industrialist Richard Arkwright in Cromford, Derbyshire. Even today, this is an impressive facility and has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This form of industrialization powered forward the first industrial revolution and the resulting changes that occurred thereafter.
Bringing the story up-to-date, many people now believe that we are potentially in the midst of a new industrial revolution, which is the fourth one. Innovation 4.0 can be regarded as a collection of different but related technologies that enable integration between physical and digital systems. The related technologies include cyber-physical systems, the industrial internet of things, artificial intelligence, autonomous robots, simulation, system integration, big data and big analytics, additive manufacturing (3D-printing), augmented reality, cloud computing and cybersecurity. Looking ahead it is likely that adoption of 5G wireless technology for digital cellular networks, with much faster download speeds, will help to power forward adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Industry 4.0 technologies are already enabling a step-change in productivity improvements in the advanced manufacturing sector, for example, in the production of automotive vehicles. But Industry 4.0 also has the potential to enable major levels of disruptive innovation in other industrial sectors. Examples include smart delivery of materials to companies, where inventory levels are remotely monitored and replacement products are delivered by driverless vehicles. Just-in-time custom manufacturing through additive manufacturing on-site enabling reductions in manufacturing and distribution costs. Intelligent transportation networks supporting driverless operation of cars. Automation of repetitive tasks such as data entry and low level accounting practices.
Alongside these opportunities there will also be challenges created – certain jobs and professions may even become redundant – although this also occurred in previous industrial revolutions. Apparently, when steam-powered locomotive trains and cars with internal combustion engines were introduced, there was no longer a need for many of the workers associated with horse-drawn carriages (such as blacksmiths). Equally, many new jobs were created, for example, through the manufacture of complex machinery to enable more efficient agriculture. Consequently, there are likely to be new professions created as part of the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies.
As new professions are created and the nature of engineering jobs changes, there will still be a need for managers to oversee the development and implementation of new technologies – managers with a technical background and this includes engineering managers. This represents a key opportunity for engineering managers to help capitalize on the emerging technologies (such as those associated with Industry 4.0) and it is important to have an up-to-date awareness of such technological developments. From an academic education perspective, there is a need to ensure engineering management programs are structured appropriately, according to both a technical and pedagogic perspective, to deliver graduating engineers with skills aligned with industry’s requirements as Industry 4.0 gathers pace over the coming years.
We should also ensure that our society’s products (such as the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge and Engineering Management Handbook) are updated to reflect these and other technological advancements. Nevertheless, in this time of emerging technologies, changing and new jobs as well as new industries and technological changes that may impact our lives in different ways, it is an exciting time to be working in engineering management. Some of the Industry 4.0 technologies may ultimately make a bigger impact than others, but having a good background and understanding of engineering management means we can not only be spectators but also participants in the current industrial revolution as well as future ones.
by Gene Dixon, PhD, MBA, FASEM, CPEM
Chair, ASEM Fellows
Associate Executive Director, ASEM
This is a little different spin on practicing engineering management. This is directed towards those EM’ers working on advanced degrees and are seeking permissions to use IP that others have created. Maybe there are other applications for those with imagination.
I remember the trepidation I had in reaching out to noted authors about using their materials. Nobody ever told me how. The pundits said just ask. Ask how? Phone call? Email? Snail mail? I didn’t know. I did email them. And, it was really gratifying when I heard positive responses from noted authors like Ira Chaleff, James Burns, and Kouzes and Posner.
Still how do you pose the question, “Can I use your chart, survey, or cite your work?”
I want to make 2 points.
Last week I received a request that schooled me on how to ask that question. The teacher learned from the student.
There was a conference on followership the summer of 2019. I was unable to attend; however I’ve had a great number of requests since that conference for permission to use The Followership Profile developed as part of my dissertation.
The request was simple and direct. It got right to the point by making the request in its opening line. The requestor then went on with a brief statement of purpose.
The next sentences were the sentences that I wish I had known to use when I was asking permissions. The requestor quoted (and cited) some of my previous work. It was a brief one or two sentences from a co-authored piece.
This quote was a clear statement that the requestor had done their homework and gave the impression that they knew what they were going, and wanted, to do. I may be easy to impress, and this was certainly impressive and appealing to me. A simple gesture that said to me that the requestor was prepared and valued work I had done and that they wanted to use.
Point 1: Demonstrate your preparation and why you want the IP owner’s permission.
There was another request from an international researcher. The grammar was not consistent with US norms, but the request properly addressed the researcher’s purpose. Once permission was granted, the acknowledgement and appreciation were endearing. I have never received such a warm thank you from anyone who used, or uses, proper grammar. As Dale Carnegie said, “Be hearty in your approbation, lavish in your praise.” We’ve corresponded a couple of times since then and I have a standing invitation to visit them in the future.
Point 2: Give heartfelt thanks for permission when you receive it.
There you have it. If you are a researcher requesting permissions, make a pitch that is appealing and give thanks. Maybe with some imagination, even the most experienced EM practitioner can find other ways to apply these two points.
And, let’s all go find a new ASEM member.
Gene Dixon is the Associate Executive Director of the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM) and is a retired university Professor having taught aspiring engineers at the undergraduate level for 14 years. He is a Certified Professional Engineering Manager and has held positions with Union Carbide, Chicago Bridge & Iron, E.I. DuPont & deNemours, Westinghouse Electric, CBS, Viacom, and the Washington Group over a span of 28 years. His work experience includes project engineer, program assessor, senior shift manager, TQM coach, production outage planner, and a remediation engineer. He is a fellow of the ASEM and served as secretary, president-elect and was the 2015 ASEM President. He was awarded the Bernie Sarchet Award by the ASEE EM Division and the Frank Woodbury Service Award by the ASEM. He has served a board member of ASEE’s Design in Engineering Education Division, the Engineering Management Division, and the Engineering Economy Division and the editorial board of Thee Engineering Economists. He has served as a board member for the Institute for Industrial and Systems Engineering’s (IISE) Engineering Economy Division and the IISE’s Society for Engineering Management Systems Division.
by Palak Shah
The term engineering is not limited to the educational or professional arena but encompasses a wide spectrum of life science and materials science applications. Engineering is innately involved, from micro to mega creations, explorations to innovations, and from deliberated designs, development, production; to functional maintenance and management of cross-functional sectors withstanding unavoidable human flaws and unforeseen natural disturbance over time. When ‘time is money’ and not everything can be predicted ahead of time, there is no black and white approach for working through trials and errors adhering to fundamental guidelines. Even with set standard procedures and consistent practices, changes are inevitable for engineering further prospects, up-to-date competitive advantage, and optimum outcomes. Engineering is intended to make life simpler, faster, and better than harsh or difficult work. Engineering managers need to know the rules well, so they can break, amend, or reset the standards effectively as needed.
Having things simple and smooth comes from a well-balanced engineering approach - naturally, individually and collaboratively. Multifaceted planning, cross-functional execution, and overall management are not only complex under time constraints but also calls to include hypotheses and judgement for uncertainty. Beyond their traditional applications in inventory management and lean manufacturing, the ‘Just-in-Time’ (JIT) and ‘Just-In-Case’ (JIC) methods have their relevance to engineering any day-to-day tasks on every workfloor at companies, at homes, and at remote online workplaces. Consider whether JIT is an ideal philosophy or a real practice, while JIC is a model planning or mere probability. Either JIT or JIC is conventionally considered, but balancing between these methods for the same project in different circumstances is a key to comprehensive engineering life-cycle management. I call it ‘JI(T-C)’, a lean, safe, energy efficient and user friendly approach applicable to any field of engineering. This combination makes for a sustainable method that prepares the system to be more resilient to constructively embrace all sorts of incidents or curveballs.
The core purpose of ‘JI(T-C)’ is to balance lean efficiency and safety. Take this application on the 5S methodology: Sort, Set-in-order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain.
Utilize a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix
Sorting out different areas suitable for efficient time practices, as well as case analysis of potential hazards requiring more lead time.
Set in order the resources and workflow to have minimal waste, JIT required steps with feasible tasks and safe, ergonomic arrangements.
Employ CAPA (Corrective and Preventive Action) and FMEA (Failure Modes & Effect Analysis)
Shining refers to keeping the process clear and transparent to avoid pitfalls.
Standardizing approach for each unique case or similar cases, with resource flexibility for time shifts and emergency tasks, followed by standard documentation and proper reporting.
Use TQM (Total Quality Management)
Sustaining objectives under quality checks and occasional maintenance with a vigilant view for deformities to be resolved within lead time.
Below are some useful sites for a few diverse engineering disciplines as well as JI(T-C) training, prevention, and parenting solutions as a part of engineering all-round life-cycle management.
All-Round Engineering Management Consulting:
JIT Training & Prevention from Social Engineering:
JIT Parenting and JIC Positive Parenting Solutions:
About the Author
Palak Shah has pursued her BS in Biomedical Engineering and MS in Engineering Management with a Project Management certification. She is also a proud mother currently living in Dallas, Texas with her daughter and husband. She carries diverse work experience from a STEM tutor to corporate internal & external operations change analyst and as an independent consultant for medical devices engineering, R&D and IT sectors for SAP implementation. She possesses an innate awe for learning multi-languages and loves reading, writing, scrapbooking and striving for result-driven communication & creativity in all-round opportunities & challenges. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
by Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM
As highlighted in my recent ASEM blog post, the design and management challenges facing the engineering manager in the emerging technologies space (i.e. autonomous and intelligent systems (A/IS) such as artificial intelligence (AI) technologies) are daunting. While the post primarily focused on matters of diversity and inclusion (D&I), it is important to note that these considerations align with the need for greater attention to ethics in addressing the mounting controversies surrounding the implementation of these technologies. IEEE has recognized this need; and, through its Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems (The IEEE Global Initiative), has released Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, First Edition (EAD1e).
Ethically Aligned Design provides practitioner-oriented guidance in embedding ethics in the definition, development, and deployment of emerging technologies. Chapter 3, Methods to Guide Ethical Research and Design, is of particular importance and value for the engineering manager. Leveraging the insights presented in Chapter 3, I offer the following engineering management takeaways inclusive of resources to assist the engineering manager in implementation.
Cross-functional and interdisciplinary collaborations in the design and management of emerging technologies are critical. Unfortunately, often as a function of the depoliticization of western engineering education, the engineering manager is often ill-equipped to appropriately understand and address non-technical factors. Thus, the need for cross-functional and interdisciplinary conversations and interventions during all stages of design and management with and by relevant experts is of import in appropriately understanding and addressing the relevant societal and ethical impacts and considerations. Movements such as The Algorithmic Justice League, particularly within the Artificial Intelligence (AI) space, are offering strategic and tactical level guidance that can be leveraged by the engineering manager in facilitating these requisite, more collaborative engagements.
Engaging ethical centering design and development methods are vital: Mark Searle in the New York Times article titled, Top Universities Join to Push Public Interest Technology, states that as “technology becomes more ubiquitous, it is essential we consider the impacts on people, whether unintended consequences or designs that exclude certain groups or disadvantage them in some way”. Engaging design frameworks such Value Sensitive Design (VSD) can assist. VSD design methodologies actively account for human values throughout the design process. Tools such as the suite of VSD toolkits offered by the Value Sensitive Design Research Lab at the University of Washington provide the engineering manager support in implementing a VSD approach.
Appropriate frameworks for accountability are needed in safeguarding vulnerable and marginalized populations: “Even more imperative to the conversation of which technologies impact these communities is the ways we as designers go about designing these systems, particularly the ways we engage in methods that design with and not just for marginalized communities” states Christina N. Harrington in her Medium piece titled, Towards Equitable Design When We Design With Marginalized Communities. In this vein of suitably designing with and not for, a means in safeguarding is to more actively engage impacted populations. In implementation, a strategy could be “forcing tech companies to include people from affected groups on ethics boards”, asserts Fabian Rogers in the article titled, The Battle to Embed Ethics in AI Research. Initiatives such as the AI Assembly can offer the engineering manager perspective and insights on both defining and enacting these crucial safeguards.
The ethical challenges in the design and management of emerging technologies clearly are great. The recently released Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems not only advances the needed discourse but offers a framing for defining specific engineering management actions in addressing these challenges. While the ethical controversies surrounding the deployment of these technologies continue to grow, the thoughtful implementation of the offered takeaways in design and management could aid in finally and sustainably turning the tide.
Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM is the Director, Engineering Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His teaching and scholarly activities are centered on advocating for more humanity-centered approaches to the design and management of technological systems. Winchester is a Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM) with over ten (10) years of industry experiences. Active in also advancing engineering management as a practice, Winchester is currently the Co-Director, Professional Development & Continuing Education for the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM). Woodrow is also under contract with the CRC Press to write Inclusion by Design: Future Thinking Approaches to New Product Development (ISBN: 978-0-367-41687-4); co-authored with Frances Alston, PhD, CHMM, CPEM and slated for a late 2020 release.
by Jeff Tippett
Have you ever played a board game with friends and everyone starts to quibble over the rules midway through the game? It might have seemed as if you were on the same page, but if it comes to a point where your mutual understanding of the game falls apart, and it’s impossible to complete the game.
The same threat applies to your business. If you assume that everyone understands the rules of the game, your vision for progression, things will probably seem to be going fine. But then, inevitably, something will happen. Someone will be unsure of the goal or the path to get there. This is where a firmly and clearly articulated vision comes into play.
As is clear by this point, you must develop a clear understanding of your vision. But, of course, you may need help in building out that vision. It may not be initially apparent. That’s perfectly natural.
The first step in finding and developing your vision is to narrow it. It needs to be rather specific, and achievable. “Making the world a better place” is as noble as any vision statement. But is it something that you alone can achieve? Moreover, there’s not likely a clear path to achieving it. Be bold, but realistic. Your vision should be the most you can reasonably expect to achieve.
Another aspect to consider is whether you’ve crafted your vision in terms that are concrete. This is a concept similar to one that I cover in my last book, Unleashing Your Superpower. When conveying your vision, be sure to use specific language, not abstract. Fully describe the goals and how you expect to reach them.
For example, which makes more sense in terms of really understanding the goal? (1) “We will lead the market in production” or (2) “We will become the preeminent supplier of this product, overtaking competitors while maintaining outstanding quality.” The same message is being conveyed, but the second option adds meat to it and makes clear that the goal is more than just making money; it’s about maintaining the work ethic and quality that brought your business to this point.
Concrete language focused on a narrow message is critical to improving your vision statement and ensuring that everyone buys in. And having a shared resolve among your team is indispensable. There’s a difference between a vision and a shared vision. A successful leader nurtures the latter. You can’t lead if the rest of your team is blindfolded. Ensure that they understand the goal and that there are clear benchmarks along the way so that everyone can stay on track and recognize progress.
A good leader doesn’t just lead; a good leader listens. Solicit feedback from your team on a regular basis, but particularly when moving in a new direction. Some folks will be hesitant to speak up if they have questions or concerns. But when encouraged to do so, they’ll be more inclined to speak up. Just because someone doesn’t tell you they have an issue doesn’t mean they’re completely on board. Take time to address concerns.
I like this quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
“If you want to build a ship, don't drum up men to gather wood, give orders,
and divide the work. Rather, teach them to yearn for the far and endless sea.”
Remember: Everything isn’t about you. If you can focus on the win for your team and how change can be a good thing for them, they’ll join you on the journey without issue.
You also want to remember that everyone in the digital age has 50 things competing to take their attention in 50 different directions. Make your message short and sweet. Take, for example, IKEA’s: “Our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people.” That’s it. But it captures everything about their organization, and every member of their organization can understand and recite it. It’s also obvious to every person involved how their individual role impacts the mission, be it as a customer-facing clerk or as the chief financial officer. The goal remains the same.
Take these suggestions and begin thinking about how your vision statement might look and how to make it narrow, concrete and easy for your team to absorb. This isn’t everything you’ll need to perfect your vision statement, but it should be a groundwork upon which you can build.
Known to many as Mr. Persuasion, Jeff Tippett wrote the book on persuasive communications.
Speaking to international audiences through keynotes and seminars, Jeff helps attendees increase their effectiveness, gives them powerful tools to help reach their goals, and empowers attendees to positively impact their organizations or businesses.
His second book, Unleashing Your Superpower: Why Persuasive Communication Is The Only Force You Will Ever Need, boldly declares we all live or die based on our ability to persuade. It is an Amazon #1 best seller.
In 2014, Jeff founded Targeted Persuasion, an award-winning public affairs + communications firm. He has worked with renowned brands Airbnb, The National Restaurant Association, The League of Women Voters, The League of Conservation Voters, and numerous others. Other industry experts have validated Jeff’s work with numerous awards, including the prestigious American Advertising Award.
Jeff is the host of Victory by Association, a podcast designed to share association success stories to help inspire executives.
Jeff’s third book, Presidential Persuasion: The Future of Leadership in this New Decade of Millennial Ascendancy, Automation, and Artificial Intelligence, is scheduled for a February 2020 release. The book is designed to help leaders navigate the future of work and leadership in the new decade.
The heart and soul of Jeff’s presentations is the emotional story he tells of adopting his youngest daughter from Haiti while the country’s government was collapsing. Through this near-death experience of navigating civil unrest and institutional bureaucracy in a third-world nation, Jeff learned valuable lessons in how to persuade others without ever manipulating. Jeff unpacks these secrets of the superpower of persuasion in every presentation.
Every New Year brings new opportunities and I am sure 2020 will be no different. Such opportunities can of course exist in our personal as well as professional lives. In regard to finding good opportunities, some people talk about the importance of having good luck. While I don’t particularly think a lot about the need to have good luck, maybe there is something to do with making one’s own luck, but how can we make our own luck? The Roman philosopher Seneca is quoted as saying “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”.
Also, there is a famous quote from Thomas Jefferson (former President of the United States) as saying “I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it”.
These quotes would lead us to think that finding great new opportunities and having good luck is not a matter of chance, but is more a product of how well prepared we are to tackle opportunities when they arise and how much work we have invested into a given part of our lives in order to be successful. I believe that being associated with a professional society such as ASEM can help us all to be prepared for new opportunities and support the work that we do. In fact, the society offers a number of complementary products and services that can help on this matter.
The professional certification offered by ASEM, through either the CAEM (Certified Associate in Engineering Management) or CPEM (Certified Professional in Engineering Management) route, provides a rigorous understanding of the engineering management discipline and its applications, and can help engineering managers to be prepared for a range of different situations. Staying up-to-date on new theories and different approaches as well as practical insights can be gained through regularly reading the society’s Engineering Management Journal and the Practice Periodical. The society’s key foundational texts on engineering management, the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) and the Engineering Management Handbook, provide the theoretical and industrial underpinnings for the subject. We can also exchange knowledge and network with peers at the society’s annual conference – helping to refresh our own knowledge base and be connected with others who have shared interests. All these activities across different aspects of engineering management can help us to be more effective in our own work and enable us to capitalize on new and emerging opportunities that we may encounter.
I would also like to remind everyone of the ASEM 2020 International Annual Conference and 41st Annual Meeting that will be held at The Curtis-Denver – a Double Tree by Hilton Hotel in Denver, Colorado from Thursday 29th October through Saturday 31st, 2020. The conference theme this year is ‘Engineering Management Entrepreneurship and Innovation’ and the deadline for abstract submission is 24th February 2020. The Conference Director (Ean Ng), Technical Program Committee Co-Chairs (Heather Keathley, Mike Parrish and James Enos), and Conference Logistics Co-Chairs (Elizabeth Gibson and Patricia McDonald) will all be working hard over the coming months to ensure that a high quality technical program is developed for the conference and that the necessary logistics arrangements are all in place.
I have been attending the ASEM Annual Conference since 2008 (yes, I know, that is a lot of air miles…), when it was held at the US Military Academy at West Point and I have always found the conferences to be excellent technical meetings. The conferences really help for staying up-to-date on different aspects of engineering management, meeting new contacts, catching up with existing friends and making new ones, as well as helping to identify new opportunities, and dare I say even making our own luck.
by Don Kennedy, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM
I was recently surprised by a client who was pushing to spend more to finish a construction project during a winter cold snap. When asked for a reason, the response was one that I had heard many times decades ago: “In January the money dries up.”
Some organizations manage tight budgets by using a time limit on the availability of scarce financial resources. A manager is given an allotment of funds to spend however they deem appropriate for a specific purpose, but only until the end of a fiscal cycle. Then new moneys become available for new specific purposes in the next fiscal cycle.
An analogy I have often used is to imagine if personal spending was treated this way. Your child comes home with broken teeth from a playground incident. You look at the crying child and announce, “We have funds allocated this year for a new home sound system. We have no funds set aside for teeth. Next year we will see if we can afford orthodontics, but for now we are going to the store for the sound system.” No one could afford to operate this way, so why do some companies still have fixed budget cycles?
At the ASEM conferences, I have heard a lot of stories of the suboptimal spending that comes from annual budgets. In one case, a delivery truck would pull up to the engineering office near the end of the cut off for funds. It was filled with especially high priced electronics devices their projects typically require. The company rules were that items had to be delivered by the end of the cycle. The engineers had funds to buy instruments they knew they would need, but the funds would evaporate within days. It was better for them to pay double for items now than to try and get new approval to buy them for much less later.
Many organizations base the new year's budget on the previous year's spending. If you are a manager and you save too much money, you are penalized by cuts to help support the manager who overspent the year before. People who read this publication include those who can now, or will in the future, influence organizational policies. Please do not just accept annual budget cycles as the way your team operates.
Dr. Don Kennedy, a fellow of ASEM, has been a regular attendee of the ASEM conference since 1999, with particularly good participation at the informal late evening "discussions" (sometimes making it difficult to get to the morning plenaries). “Improving Your Life at Work” is Don Kennedy's ebook which includes a lengthy bibliography for people looking for references on management theory.
by William Daughton, PhD, FASEM, Former ASEM Executive Director
We often think of leadership in terms of the “great man or woman” theory or as something reserved for presidents and CEOs. However, individuals in positions of authority at all levels in an organization have leadership as well as management responsibilities. In terms of technical, human, and conceptual skills of a leader, the proportion associated with human skills is just as large at the technical group level as it is for top management. So, what form of leadership can be exercised at the technical group level which can positively affect the individual contributors?
There are several things which could be done, but one of the most effective is described by the Path-Goal Theory of leadership. The reason that this theory is useful at this level of supervision is that the supervised population is typically comprised of very motivated individuals highly focused on completing their technical work or projects and who are easily frustrated by the lack of clear goals, various obstacles to success, and poor support. Path-Goal Theory addresses all of these issues. This approach to leadership is not only theoretical but also pragmatic and can be readily exercised by the technical group leader.
Pragmatically, the theory forces the leader to understand the needs of the group members by asking the following questions:
What obstacles do the group members face in completing their work? Little is more frustrating than wanting to achieve success but being prevented from achieving it by obstacles which unnecessarily get in the way. These can include inadequate tools, poor training, lack of equipment or facilities, and a very important one, poor coordination with other groups or individuals upon which the work depends. A leader must be sensitive to these potential obstacles, anticipate them if possible, and certainly resolve them quickly if they arise.
These three questions really focus on the needs of the technical contributors. Pragmatic application of the theory leads to strong motivation, reduced frustration, and a real sense of accomplishment. In its simplest sense, this theory provides a way for the technical supervisor to guide individual contributors along a path to success.
Dr. Daughton has been involved in Engineering Management education for over 20 years. He was the Lockheed Martin Professor and Program Director of the Lockheed Martin Engineering Management program at the University of Colorado - Boulder. He then moved to Missouri S&T where he was chair of the Engineering Management and Systems Engineering Department. While there, his department hosted an ASEM Conference in Springfield, MO. Moving back to Colorado, he took a position as the Director of Extended Studies in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado - Colorado Springs. The programs in extended studies included Engineering Management.
He held the position of ASEM Executive Director and is an ASEM Fellow. He has an ASEM service award named in his honor. Dr. Daughton had extensive experience in technical management in the semiconductor industry before moving to academia. He holds a Ph.D. in solid-state physics with emphasis in electronic materials. He continues to teach online graduate courses for Missouri S&T and UCCS in engineering leadership and case study analysis.
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