TECHNOLOGY

 

 

 

PEARLS OF INSIGHT


ESSAYS ON THE MANAGEMENT OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

 

 

Introduction

 

Perhaps this essay should have been titled "Revelations".  But that title has been used and I had to find something else.  Nevertheless, this is an attempt to set down a number of "revelations" that I found were both startling and clarifying and of immense help to me and to others with whom I dealt during my career in the management of science and engineering.  So they are not pearls of wisdom, but rather pearls of insight.  And, like a string of pearls, they are only loosely connected with each other, with most of them standing on their own.  As a collection, however, they have helped me understand a bit more of the world.

 

Briefly, my education and career have been, throughout, a mixture of science and business.  My undergraduate work was in Business and Engineering Administration, overloaded with nuclear physics.  My PhD was in Experimental Physics, with minors in Theoretical Physics (normal) and Engineering Administration (very abnormal in those days).  I worked in the early days of the nuclear power industry, first as an individual contributor and then as a manager.  I ran a computer center for some years and then moved to a management position developing "large-scale, scientific computers" and, later, in managing an international effort in advanced computer technology.  I then became the Chief Technical Officer of a multi-billion dollar company with about 50 engineering organizations and a corporate research lab.  In the most recent years, prior to retirement, I have had a satisfying consulting practice in the management of science and engineering, and related subjects.

 

The intended audience for this essay is the manager or senior individual contributor who is either in the science/engineering functions or who is in some other function but who has to deal with science and engineering.  Some of the essays, while derived from my experience in science and engineering, are broadly applicable.  Others are related primarily to the technical functions.  These two types of essays are presented in separate sections.

 

This series of disconnected mini-essays is intended simply to make available to others the "aha's" that have been so useful to me. The criteria for inclusion here were that I believed that the item was profoundly insightful and that, in the management of science and engineering, the insight produced a certain amount of painful truth, as well as light.  Read them at your peril -- some of them are uncomfortable!  But read them.

I have kept the format of these essays short and to the point.  I have reacted to a number of books on management and business that seemed to have a good idea, but which felt they had to stretch that good thought out to book length.  This leads to a lot of wordiness and diminshes the impact of the thought involved.  Perhaps I have erred in the other direction, by making each point briefly and letting it go at that.  But my hope is that this will lead to more thinking and to more willingness to go on to the next "pearl" rather than causing the reader to put the book down because of endless repetition and exposition.

 

The more I got into writing these essays, the more informal and idiosyncratic the writing became.  I came to believe that relaxing the usual formal writing style would both make the points sharper and make the reading more enjoyable.  I hope you agree.

 

I claim no originality for any of these insights.  Where I remember the source from which I learned the item, I have recorded it.

 

insights from science and engineering, but broadly applicable

  1. A Key Reason Why Organizatons Behave the Way They Do
     

  2. What is Management Needed For?
     

  3. The Single Most Important Lesson
     

  4. Prussian Wisdom
     

  5. The Importance of Culture
     

  6. Claw Marks
     

  7. A Negotiating Session is not a Session to Negotiate
     

  8. Testing a Strategic Plan
     

  9. Kiss and Succeed
     

  10. When Professional Management Fails
     

  11. Of Mystics and "Unfair" Tactics

 

       Directly related primarily to science and engineering

  1. Hammings Law
     

  2. Non-linearities
     

  3. Prediction - what and when
     

  4. Patents and proprietary position -- "Things are seldom what they seem"
     

  5. Technology Transfer is a Body Contact Sport!
     

  6. Womb to Tomb: Product Life Cycles
     

  7. Exploratory Projects
     

  8. Development Projects and Their Termination
     

  9. The Unbelievable Agony of Launching a True, Serial-manufactured Product
     

  10. How All This Applies to Software Development
     

  11. Risk Taking
     

  12. Engineering Audits an Experiment