You see there comes a point in the career of most engineers that if they are to progress further they must complete the transition from specialist to manager. However they do not always succeed. Some flourish and go on to executive management positions. Others, unfortunately flounder in their new role as a manager despite the fact that they have been competent as engineering specialists. What are the critical skills that get engineers successfully through this transition and how are they acquired?
Well what are the critical skills that get engineers successfully through this transition and how are they acquired?
In my work with my colleagues in recruitment in the engineering and technology sectors, I have found that it was clear that some engineers were indeed, very good managers while others managed very poorly. Now what contributed to their success or failure was much less clear.
Managers Make Strategic DecisionsAnother element of the transition to manager is the requirement to make strategic decisions. Specialist engineers may be given autonomy as to how they work on a project, but they do not decide which projects they work on. Managers, on the other hand, spend much of their time making (or contributing to) decisions that determine which business strategies will be followed, which projects will be worked on and the budget that will be available for their completion. These decisions are extremely important, as it will not matter how efficiently any department works if it is pursuing the wrong strategy or completing the wrong projects. Strategic decision-making requires an ability to step back and see the whole picture. After a career of focusing on their own specialization, some engineers find this very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. As a result, they tend to ‘micro-manage’ their staff, getting so lost in operational details that they completely lose sight of the big picture.
Managers Interact with their PeersPossibly the most difficult part of the transition is the need for engineering managers to build constructive relationships with their fellow (non-technical) managers, suppliers and customers. Specialist engineers often work in isolation from non-technical professionals. They have considerable autonomy and are generally left alone to focus on their task. As a result they develop their own jargon and tend to devalue the other management professions of marketing, accounting and human resources usually labeling them simply as ‘admin’. Life as a manager could not be more different. Each day brings a constant stream of interruptions and the continuing need to negotiate (or compete for resources) with other management professionals. The good engineering managers are prepared to accept that engineering is only one of many critical competencies that will ensure business success. They quickly pick up the skills needed to communicate with their peers, customers and suppliers and to contribute as an equal (not superior) team member. By contrast, the managers who have not made the transition well adopt a bunker mentality, locking themselves in their office for long periods so that they can get some ‘real work’ done without being bothered by ‘admin’. Consequently, they are often excluded from critical discussions to the detriment of the function they manage, their staff and their own careers.
Managers that Lead can Motivate StaffMotivation and leadership skills are essential for effective staff management. Managers’ ability to motivate staff comes from their power to administer rewards and punishment. Engineers who manage badly tend to place an over-reliance on punishment to get results. This can create more problems than it solves. Good engineering managers have learnt to use rewards to motivate their staff: by recognizing individual needs, by redesigning their jobs or by setting challenging goals. They are not afraid of using punishment when appropriate, but when they do, the punishment ‘fits the crime’. The absence of leadership skills impacts very differently in different industries. In manufacturing, engineers who have not successfully made the transition to manager, (forgetting hat they are now controlling people, rather than machines), simply have no perception that leadership is anything more than barking orders. They usually get compliance, but at the expense of disempowered employees (and often lost production). In the more decentralized structures of the construction industry (where they are managing other engineers) they go to the other extreme. They delegate every decision to the point of complete abnegation of their own responsibility. Managers that have successfully made the transition from specialists (in both industries) understand when it’s appropriate to delegate, and by how much. They lead change by example; modeling the new behaviors that they expect of their staff..
A Manager must:Be Honest with Himself/Herself and Their EmployeesBe a Decision Maker – Be Able to Make the “Difficult Choices”Be a Coach and TeacherManagers Make Strategic DecisionsAnother element of the transition to manager is the requirement to make strategic decisions. Specialist engineers may be given autonomy as to how they work on a project, but they do not decide which projects they work on. Managers, on the other hand, spend much of their time making (or contributing to) decisions that determine which business strategies will be followed, which projects will be worked on and the budget that will be available for their completion. These decisions are extremely important, as it will not matter how efficiently any department works if it is pursuing the wrong strategy or completing the wrong projects. Strategic decision-making requires an ability to step back and see the whole picture. After a career of focusing on their own specialization, some engineers find this very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. As a result, they tend to ‘micro-manage’ their staff, getting so lost in operational details that they completely lose sight of the big picture.
Engineering Management CertificationWhy is engineering management certification necessary?Since many engineers do not have a good venue to develop talents required to be good managers. Traditional engineering education has not trained them well in management and business administration skills. Most companies do not have a methodology to determine the capability of engineers to be good managers; nor do they have a good way to train them after being selected. There are no established standards or benchmarks for successful engineering managers. The best practices of engineering management stay mostly in the literature for the academics, and little for practicing engineers.Secondly, engineering management certification is based on a uniform, globally administered examination that evaluates engineers’ knowledge and skills in planning, organizing, allocating resources, and directing technical activities and enterprises. The body-of-knowledge contained in the EMC-BOK provides a good basis for the examination. The same examination will be administered globally, thereby providing a uniform measurement of the knowledge, skills and competency of the certified engineering managers. The objective of certification is to provide a globally recognized standard for engineering managers. It offers a venue for engineers anywhere to develop their talents required to be good managers.
We have witnessed the explosion of MBA’s in the last half of the 20th Century. The tides seem to have slowed in the last few years. We are now experiencing the exponential rise of engineering management degree programs in engineering schools. Are the new Masters Degree in Engineering Management replacing the MBA’s? Does it mean that Engineering Managers are the managers for the 21st Century?
Managing People & Developing Leadership in
Technology Related Enterprises
Engineering Management International Forum
Beijing, China -- April 23, 2005
北京 , 2005 年 4 月 23 日
Sponsors and Co-sponsors: (Alphabetically listed)
主办 / 协办 / 支持单位 ( 按英文字母顺序排列 ) ：
主办单位 : 美国机械工程师学会 (ASME) ，中国外专局 (SAFEA) ，清华大学 (Tsinghua University)
协办单位 : 国际工程管理认证中心 (EMCI) ，中国国际人才交流协会 (CAIEP), 清华继续教育学院
支持单位 : ASCE, AIME, AIChE, CMES, US Embassy, Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, etc.
Sunil B. Gupta
Management Career “Pyramid”
1st Line Management
What are the critical skills that get engineers
successfully through the transition from
specialist to manager?
And how are they acquired?
• MBA’s -
•Management Training Courses -
•Structured Workplace Learning Experiences-
•Engineering Management Certification -
Management Levels & Skills Mix
3rd Level and
(Senior Managers) Conceptual
2nd Level Interpersonal
(Middle Managers) Skills
1st Level Technical
Michael K. Badawy, Developing Managerial Skills in Engineers and Scientists:
Succeeding as a Technical Manager, 1982.
Engineering Management Career
Supervisors Program Development Liaison
Planning & Evaluation
Situational Leadership Directorate Head
Model/Reinforce Core (Senior Mgr)
Demonstrate Core Values Values
Managing Diverse Workforce Resource Management
Team Leader Coaching/Counseling Technology Management
Project Leader Conflict Management
POA&Ms Change Management
Project Tracking Mentoring
Team Building and
Resource Expenditures Influencing/Negotiating Presentation/ Marketing
Customer Orientation Human Resources Mgmt Skills
Quality Focus Branch Head (Middle Mgr)
Division Head (Sr Mgr)
Consensus Asst. Program Mgr
3 Cornerstones to the Top of the “Pyramid”
The secret of success is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes.
-Benjamin Disreali, British Novelist and Debater (1804-1881)
Elements to Developing Successful Managers
Learn how to do the one-on-one performance
Unions? – get smart in labor relations
Learn HR policies and build relationships
with HR reps
Learn how to work with “difficult” people
Diversity – understand benefits and issues -
volunteer for Diversity Boards or Panels
Management books and journals – remember
no one “guru” has all the answers – take the
best from all your readings – case studies are
particularly interesting and educational
Leadership vs. Management
Leadership is about influencing people to follow
Management focuses on maintaining systems and
Managers maintain direction
Leaders create positive change
Leadership is influence
Leadership is …..
Setting the bar…then…Raising the bar
Management is …..
…Ensuring the bar is cleared…
Leadership vs. Management
Leadership is getting others to willingly follow you
Managers have respect due to position;
Leaders get respect because they make things happen – they drive
A good manager may not be a good leader;
● A great leader may not be a good manager
Keys to Preparing for a
Successful Management Career
It’s all about People…It’s all about People…
Key Focus Areas for Developing
Continuously improve your Communications ability–
written & oral communications
New Focus Area: International Communications
Negotiating – key skill to a manager’s future success
Financial Management/Budget Development –
general theory and the specific organization’s accounting
& budgeting practices
Remember - actions speak louder than words
Manager is a Role Model - subordinates will imitate
the manager’s behavior or attitude or act accordingly -
they’ll listen closely to what’s said - but if the manager
does something different….so will they.
Contradictions will impact Manager-Subordinate
●How can you be trusted if you say one thing and do
Actions speak louder than words!
Managers are responsible for motivating
3 Factors influence Employee Motivation
Will effort be recognized in performance appraisals?
What is the performance-reward relationship?
Do employees receive awards they really want?
Performance Reviews - most difficult part of a Manager’s job
● Difficult to discuss weaknesses with employees
●Employees become defensive when receiving negative feedback - and
possibly exhibit aggressive behavior
● Employees have inflated sense of their own performance
Employees should be aware of where they stand throughout
the year - not find out at review time
The Best Surprise is No Surprise!
Elements of a Successful Manager
“Soft skills” will play a significant part
in successfully transitioning from Engineer
to Engineering Manager
A manager must have a strong desire to
want to continue to develop himself/herself
AND more importantly a desire to develop
Become a Decision Maker – Managers
have to make the “Tough Choices”
It’s all about People…It’s all about People…
Why is Engineering Management
F or th e individua l e ng ine e rs , b uilding on th e ir
te c h nic a l b a c kg round, e ng ine e ring m a na g e m e nt
c e rtific a tion ope ns ne w c a re e r pa th s – a b ridg e th a t
fa c ilita te s th e tra ns ition from e ng ine e ring pra c tic e to
m a na g e m e nt.
C e rtific a tion va lida te s th e knowle dg e a nd s kills in
m a rke ting , fina nc e , le a de rs h ip, la w, a nd c ultura l
dive rs ity. More ove r, th e e xpe rie nc e in m a na g ing
b us ine s s ope ra tions a nd te c h nolog ic a l a nd h um a n
re s ourc e s e nh a nc e s th e opportunity of s uc c e s s in
te c h nolog y-b a s e d org a niz a tions in th e g lob a l
m a rke tpla c e .
Engineering Managers are the managers for the 21st Century
Engineering managers are distinguished from other managers
by the fact that they posses both an ability to apply
engineering principles & a skill in organizing and directing
technical projects and people in technical jobs.
They are capable of designing, implementing, operating and
optimizing sophisticated high technology enterprises in
manufacturing, government or industrial service sectors of
our global economy.
There is a growing need in technology driven enterprises to
integrate engineering and management systems in order to
ensure that the company thrives in global competition.