on July 2nd, 2007

Dear Colleagues

After a few week’s gap in my musings, for which I apologise, I am firmly back on deck again. We have been developing a new software product for video conferencing which has drained me of every waking moment, and as you know with software products, budgets and time are rather flexible unless you actively intervene and drive them the right way. 

Two things today. Firstly, my comments on the dearth of leadership in engineering and secondly, some interesting survey results from a pumps conference we ran this week.

Engineering leadership

I have noticed over the years that there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm by engineers and technicians to get involved in leadership in their organizations. Perhaps this is due to the reluctance to manage other skill sets such as marketing and finance where one feels somewhat insecure, and the irritation with being sucked into the “politics and backstabbing” that often happens in larger firms. And perhaps, somewhat contradictory skills required in being a good engineer and leader  – being a good engineer involves being good at and enjoying technical “detailed things”. Leadership requires a different set of skills, as a leader does not have to have detailed knowledge but needs to know where to look to get know-how. Getting people together in a team and getting the best out of them is the hallmark of a good leader. And from a purely mercenary point of view, as Jim Pinto points out: “…you can enhance your job, your results – and your pay – by acquiring some leadership skills.”  As Iaccocca (the legendary and sometimes controversial Chrysler CEO) remarked, there are nine main attributes of a good leader which you must possess to be successful. You must be:

• Curious – one has to listen, absorb and try and understand this “big old complicated” world and vigorously learn on a daily basis
• Creative – try something different and innovative all the time to improve your results. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and getting the same old boring results (and failures)
• Show character – having ethics and morality to follow your convictions and to say I’m wrong when necessary
• Be courageous – taking a position even when it will “cost you votes” in your firm or with your friends and colleagues
• Have conviction and passion – “fire in your belly” and genuine enthusiasm and joy with what you are doing
• Be charismatic – inspire others around you to trust you with their careers and time
• Be competent – a problem solver and hard headed. If your team doesn’t come back to you with their problems, they have probably lost confidence in you, or don’t care. Either way, it is not a good thing.
• Have common sense – ability to think logically in the context of the real world. But as a friend of mine pointed out: “Common Sense is not so common around here”.

And as the inimitable Tom Peters pointed out: “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders”.

My heartfelt thanks to Jim Pinto, Automationworld, and Iacocca  for their assistance with this ite up.

Pumps Conference

I am always humbled by the enormous number of people that come along to our conferences and how they freely and enthusiastically share their information and know-how. This week we ran a very hands-on and interactive pumps conference in Perth, Australia and the response to an impromptu snap survey of pumping applications was very interesting. Essentially, it is amazing to find out how many pumps failures there are and the lack of a systematic process of condition monitoring to minimize this issue. It will be interesting to compare these results with your plant.


Steve Mackay

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