Certainly, there is a big difference between what makes a great leader and what makes a great manager. In my mind, a great manager is someone who takes a group of individual people and makes them better, often much better, than the sum of the parts. In a good working environment, people learn from each other and start feeding off each other in a very positive way. That's a particular challenge in an engineering environment where traditionally much work was done individually or in very small cells. It's also a particular challenge in engineering because engineers can at times be perfectionists and have trouble sharing projects or letting them go. A person who can overcome these hurdles, even in small groups, is a great manager.
I totally agree with Doug that there is a huge difference between what makes a great engineering leader or visionary with what makes a great engineering manager. Given that product development is far more of a collaborative, interdisciplinary practice today, the need for people who can effectively communicate, problem solve, promote cross-discipline sharing and knowledge transfer, and motivate staffers is what's needed (and oftentimes lacking) in engineering organizations. It's a set of skills that often takes a back seat to technical skills. Yet given the high stakes of today's competitive climate and the overall lack of budgets and resources, managers that can effectively do more with less and still deliver great products are an invaluable asset.
1. "...engineering leaders...can provide a clear and concise vision. They can read between the lines...and communicate an objective that everyone understands."
2. Soft skills are a big part
3. Leaders give their people the tools to do their jobs properly. They...don't micromanage.
We require our Factory managers to also be resident engineers. This is an exceedingly difficult task given the requirements of their TWO positions (all wrapped up into one). Not only do we require that they are a successful engineer (you know; pocket protector, able to spend long hours in solitude figuring out a problem, and having some amount of the "Rainman" mentality), but they also need to possess a Dale Carnegie rationale that enables them to convince people that they're happy working in their sweat shop for minimum wage.
For some reason I tend to believe hard technical skills should be more than just a nice qualification.
Being now retired from a big Global 100 Corporation, I was witness to the value destruction by two of our CEO's, who were big in soft skills, but lack the heart and feeling of a true innovator to provide impulse to a High Technology company.
To me the principles I like ot look after when doing engineering work, including management, are those I read once Albert Einstein's named his 3 rules of work:
1) Out of clutter, find simplicity
2) From discord, seek harmony
3) In difficulty, lies opportunity
With these principles you can have an excellent Engineering Manager, not only to report to their superiors, but to be the top person of his / her organization.
Good article to think why we love engineering in the first place,
everyone has good points: I like to add that a good manager should know how to hire people that complement each other with small areas of overlap,. This will allow people to communicate with ease and not spet on each other, but help each other.
Also the manager should analyse his team and know how to deal with each one, based on their individual chanracter.
I think one of the qualities any great manager will have is the ability to maximize the output of all of the individuals who work for him. This can mean having to adapt to several different motivations, skill sets, and personalities.
With engineers I think there tends to be a certain language that we all speak and I think a great Engineering manager has to understand that.
Many excellent comments on this topic of what makes a good engineering manager. Joe Jenney's comments really hit home with his comment about '..progressive seasoning..' When I think of my own career, one of the things I noticed is that 'opportunity' (in the electronics design field, at least) has seemed to diminish over the years. By 'opportunity' I mean the opportunity to design new products, be exposed to strong mentors, experience new things. I think that this is partly because of the drive to globalize (where a lot of the design is now being done overseas (although I think that pendulum may be swinging back this way) and the drive to 'specialize' where the engineers are forced into certain narrow disciplines and not allowed to even stick their toes into other areas.
Othes have indicated that good engineers don't necessarily make good managers (and vice versa). That certainly is true.
One thing I alsways appreciated was a very demanding and professional attitude. I like a manager that demands the absolute very best of his team and is not afraid to remove those that do not perform.
A high prformance team cannot work well if all the team members are not up to the mark. A certain amount of mentoring and support is good but in general I like managers that expect you to find ways to succeed and be successful without a lot of handholding.
Given: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The same is true of an organization.
A good engineering manager is one who is able to visualize the need, contribution, and future of a product suggested by him, or members of his organization, above or below, on the organization chart. Communicate his analysis to his superiors, accept their decision, If accepted, he must set in motion the necessary activities within his engineering group to bring about its being.
He must make certain each member of his engineering team is competent in his particular field, can apply his knowledge, and produce results. This competency level must be spelled out as part of each engineers job description, and signed off by them. Levels of achievement must also be a part of this job description.
Now that he has a system of determining what is to be designed and a means of doing so, he must be able to communicate the details of the project to his engineers, assign responsibility to them, follow their progress, provide the finished product design to the next organization level.
The 100% solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse 2 is prepping for its upcoming flight, becoming the first plane to fly around the world without using fuel. It's able to do so because of above-average performance by all of the technologies that go into it, especially materials.
With major product releases coming from big names like Sony, Microsoft, and Samsung, and big investments by companies like Facebook, 2015 could be the year that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) finally pop. Here's take a look back at some of the technologies that got us here (for better and worse).
Good engineering designs are those that work in the real world; bad designs are those that don’t. If we agree to set our egos aside and let the real world be our guide, we can resolve nearly any disagreement.
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