Category Archives: Management

Stories from the gray side of life.

An Intimidating Interview

I have been reading the book Building the H Bomb: A Personal History by Ken Ford. A major character in the book is Edward Teller, a very famous physicist who is best known as the father of the American H-bomb. I had to smile as I read about Edward Teller. When I worked at Hewlett-Packard, an electrical engineer named Russ Price talked about interviewing for a job at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he walked into a room and faced Edward Teller as his interviewer. He and Dr. Teller then proceeded to have a very technical interview. Continue reading

 
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Word of the Day: Omphaloskepsis

I was sitting in a management meeting today that seemed to be rather unproductive. It ended up in a philosophical discussion that did not go anywhere. I commented that we seemed to be engaging in omphaloskepsis, which is the name for the ancient Greek practice of contemplating one's navel (Figure 1). I first heard this word at Orbital ATK, where it was used to describe some of the meetings there. Continue reading

 
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Television Analogies to Working for a Startup

I was talking to an old friend the other night about the positives and negatives associated with working for a startup company. Overall, we both enjoyed working with startups enormously, and I would seriously consider joining another. However, both of us understand the special challenges that startups face. Continue reading

 
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Graphic Depicting the Need for Succession Planning

I recently had an employee retire in my group that caused me to look at the age distribution within our entire HW organization. After seeing the age of our engineering staff, I made a proposal to our management team for ensuring that the skills of our senior staff members were being transferred over time to our junior staff members. This post shows how I presented the age information to internal management. The presentation was successful, and I thought it would be useful to show here. Continue reading

 
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Greek Mythology is Relevant to Engineering Management

The older I get, the more I see the relevance of the classics to modern life. As a boy, I read a children's version of Aesop's fables, which I loved and are still relevant to daily life. Later in school, I read about Greek mythology from a book called Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton. I still have a personal copy of this book that I refer to occasionally. It may seem odd, but the more time I spend in engineering management, the more relevant these myths seem to become. The last two weeks I have mentioned two Greek myths several times – the tales of Cassandra and Sisyphus. They seem particularly appropriate to modern management. Continue reading

 
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Good Example of Learning Curve Labor Cost Reductions

I am always looking for examples of efficiencies that can be attributed to learning curve and production volumes. Figure 1 shows an example from an analysis of war production in Germany during WW2. This particular example focuses on the labor required to build a Ju 88 multi-role aircraft. Continue reading

 
Posted in Management, Product Cost | 1 Comment

Marine Management Philosophy Versus Engineering Management Philosophy

I have been reading an article about our new Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a US Marine general who is well known for his thoughtful insights on the world situation. He is also viewed as a superb manager, which means I want to learn as much from his experience as possible. In the article, Mattis has listed some of his management credos. I thought I would look at coming up with corresponding credos for managing a civilian engineering team (Table 1). Continue reading

 
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Old-School Selling of the Exploration of Mars

My youngest son has been fascinated with Elon Musk's plans for colonizing Mars. He is not that different from his old man because in my youth Wernher von Braun (Figure 1) had me captivated with his plans for human-crewed missions to Mars. As I described von Braun's plans for exploring Mars to my son, I realized the both Musk and von Braun applied similar state-of-the-art marketing approaches. Continue reading

 
Posted in Astronomy, History of Science and Technology, Management | 2 Comments

Things Not to Do in an Interview

I have been in management since 1995, and I literally have hired many dozens of people and interviewed hundreds of people in the process. I have heard just about everything you can imagine in an interview. After a recent interview, I thought it might be useful to mention a few things not to do in an interview: Continue reading

 
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Product Design vs Research

I saw an interesting discussion on the Dynamic Ecology web site about publishing research papers. As I read the article, I saw that analogies could be drawn between doing research and developing new products. The Dynamic Ecology post was centered on observations made by William Shockley , 1956 Physics Nobel Prize winner, on what makes a successful researcher. Continue reading

 
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