Doing without the tool box

Management for Engineers
November 24, 1995

The authors rightly point out in the introduction that designers, planners, builders and the like who have had no exposure to management training will find it difficult to relate to other managers effectively and will thus set limits to their own progression.

As engineers rise in the organisational hierarchy they will require less and less the technical skills that served them well at the start of their careers. Increasingly they will come to rely on more general managerial skills. They will need to cooperate with other managers who come from different backgrounds and work with them in multifunctional teams. Increasingly they will also be required to lead, motivate and reward those for whom they are responsible.

Some but by no means all of these needs are addressed in this book. It is strong on exploring the interdependent nature of managerial roles. Engineers cannot hope to survive on exercising their technical skills alone. The book is also good with regard to the practical skills of management accounting. The basic processes of production, management and marketing are similarly well covered.

The chapters are well set out with useful case studies, practical exercises and chapter summaries. There are also guides to further reading. The layout is attractive and the use of paragraph headings in the left margin is helpful. A summary of points to be covered and learning objectives to be achieved at the beginning of each chapter would have been useful however.

Much more significant than detailed points of layout is the lop-sided nature of the contents. Only the most cursory coverage is given to issues central to the role of the manager such as leadership and motivation skills. A catch-all final chapter on the management of change is inadequately pressed into service to cover these areas. Twenty-four pages out of a total of 291 is simply not enough to cover crucial management areas such as team building, reward management and performance appraisal.

One imagines that none of the authors comes from a behavioural background. The consequent lack of emphasis on human-resource management is a pity. It is generally accepted that the competitive edge will only be maintained by those companies which develop effective organisational structures, intergroup relationships and individual reward packages.

The book is also weak in two further important areas. There is only brief reference to total-quality management. Accordingly the need for a culture change in work organisations and what this means for managerial behaviour is not covered adequately. Key concepts of organisational process reengineering and employee empowerment go by default as a result.

A related weakness is in the coverage of strategic management. Specialists such as engineers are not alone in having difficulty in thinking strategically. Many of us would prefer to hold on to a narrow profession-based image of our organisation. It is important that managers are at least aware of current pressures to abandon traditional patterns of managing. Arguably managers should be familiar, for example, with zero based budgeting in areas such as human resource management. There is little indication in this book generally of the breadth and depth of the managerial role.

Doubtless the book reflects the content of a course developed and taught by the authors. As such it should serve their needs well enough. It is difficult to argue however that this book is a novel contribution to our understanding of the changing role of the managerial specialist.

Christopher Molander is senior lecturer in human-resource management, University of Bradford.

Management for Engineers

Author - Steven Henderson, Robert Illidge and Peter McHardy
ISBN - 0 7506 06738
Publisher - Butterworth Heinemann
Price - £17.95
Pages - 291

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments