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Reading the published papers and books, looking at the available tools and aids, it would be easy to gain the impression that the management function was well understood, cut and dried, and largely mechanistic. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even in the far slower era of the 1960s and 70s it was a complex and unpredictable art, fraught with surprises, unseen difficulties and entirely unscheduled events.
In this far faster era (circa 2017) we suffer the compound effects of shorter project times, distributed teams, shorter people dwell times, and the shifting sands of accelerating technology. Managers we expected to marshal the resources, orchestrate what is available, hit the delivery targets on time and on budget. It is quite an act, and sees the most successful managers also adopting the role of ‘leader’ to steer through the labyrinth of technical, design, production, delivery and support problems whilst placating the demand of politics finance, marketing and sales.
I have been doing this since the 1970s on a wide range of projects spanning £100,000 to £5, 000,000,000 with staffing number between 3 and >3000. And in every case the problems surrounding technology, fabrication, delivery and support to a given specification are insignificant to those related to people! Here we address many real-life experience, the ‘gotchas’ and the ‘get outs’, highlighting good and bad practices along with the qualities than make a good manager and leader.