Engineering and Management Potpourri #2

August 30, 1996.

Pot-pourri: 1. orig., a stew. 2. a mixture of dried flower petals with spices, kept in a jar for its fragrance. 3. a medley, miscellany, or anthology.

Unlike the other long articles in this series, this is a collection of short pieces of news, comments, editorials.

  • Develop develop better time management habits. Four quick tips from Ricardo Semler, in "Managing With People in Mind," can help engineering managers gain control over their paperwork. (1) Divide the accumulated paper in your office into A, B, and C piles; items in the A pile (no more than 5, however) require your personal attention and are indisputably important. B items require attention, but not right away. C items might be helpful, but discard them since you can't know everything. (2) Always start with the most difficult or time-consuming A items. (3) Have a folder of A items that you must do before going home. (4) Use these RSVPs: "Thanks, but I can’t fit it in;" "I can't go, but I believe X can;" "I'm sorry I can't make it, but let me know what happened."
    TT: I do not very well in this department, so do not feel bad if your practice is far from this ideal!

  • Two year window available to institute change. "The window of opportunity that we have available to us for a direct assault on change is only two years," asserts James E. Morehouse, vice president, A.T. Kearney, Inc. (Chicago). "We have to produce first results in about six months and complete the particular initiative in two years," he told the Council of Logistics Management annual conference. "If the program goes beyond that time, the players begin to change, the mission and vision urgency is lost, and the coalescence will become unraveled. Don’t plan a program that will take five years," he admonished the group.
    TT: Good suggestion. However, 2 year projects BECOME 5 year projects!

  • The problem-solving guide for "perfect" engineering managers. The perfect manager, one who is both a firefighter and a visionary, must approach problem solving from four different angles. They include: (1) Examine the internal implications of the proposed solution (What does this solution do to the workers, its effects on other processes?). (2) Examine the external implications of the proposed solution (How will it affect our customers, our suppliers?). (3) Pick a solution that attempts to eliminate the problem in the future. (4) Pick a solution that maintains the most productive direction of the organization. Sound relatively simple?. According to Industrial Engineering magazine, all four angles must occur in unison to "ensure the most appropriate decision for the organization can be made."

  • Overcoming the successor syndrome. Your predecessor may have been a real SOB or even a hero. But whatever, to hear the staff tell it, she’s missed – greatly. Stepping into someone else’s shoes is always difficult. However, according to several human resource experts, the best advice is to "hang in there" while you begin to begin to build your own system of support and cooperation. As described in Warehouse Management Solutions: (1) Keep your feeling under control; (2) Never badmouth your predecessor; (3) Quietly establish your own style; (4) Let employees get to know you; and (5) Adopt a positive attitude. Remember: It will take some time to convert them, but eventually they will become "your" pepole, who will come to realize and recognize your special talents and abilities.
    TT: I cannot overemphasize #2!

  • Don’t ignore early warning signs of career suicide. Have you ever witnessed a hotshot manager’s fast-track career path suddenly get derailed? Often the damage is self-inflicted, or as Andrew J. DuBrin calls it: self- sabotage. Procrastination is the leading form of self-sabotage. Missing one assignment will not do you in. However, a series of deadlines missed or projects never completed Will ultimately ruin your career. Other career- stoppers include: anger and cynicism; deception and lying; insensitivity; negative self-talk; poor team play; and angry confrontations with powerful people. Some people have scripts that program them toward damaging their careers and falling short of their potential, he claims, However, the impact can be reversed, he says in “Your Own Worst Enemy," (AMACOM Books, 135 West 50th Street, New York, NY 10029; 800-538-4761; cost $19.95).
    TT: Wasn't this %^&*( article due last week? Well, let me see what was the bad thing that I did last week?

  • Finding out what your new boss really wants from you. Engineering managers, when encountering a new boss, will have to assess the boss’ "psychological distance." According to Harry Levinson, "Psychological distance is the special blend of affection, privacy, and control that govern the comfort with which a person works with others." When feeling out the new boss, he stresses in "The Levinson Letter," managers must get a clear, comprehensive description of what is expected. Find out exactly what the boss values most, and least, in an employee. What’s his take on suggesting new ideas, informing him of problems, developing subordinates, and taking chances. As Levinson writes, "It might take a lot of nerve to ask these questions up front, but it is preferable to walking on eggshells for the rest of your working days."
    TT: "Bie^'t ngu+o+`i, bie^'t ta, tra(m tra^.n, tra(m tha('ng"!


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