BOOK REVIEW: Managing and Leading: 52 Lessons Learned for Engineers
by Stuart G. Walesh, PhD., P.E.
(272 pages published by ASCE Press, Reston, VA, 2004) $55.00
This is not the most important book on management or leadership that I've read, nor is it apt to be a bestseller or become a staple in the literature on management. Nonetheless, I expect all consultants to management can benefit from it, especially those who are just starting or are early in their careers. From its jacket cover, and considering the publisher, the book would appear to be directed at the engineering community. However, I would estimate that 90% or more of the lessons or chapters are focused on helping any individual who is directly involved in business or in consulting and is striving to ad-vance within his or her own organization. Some of the lessons are even more helpful for those readers who may be plan-ning to start their own consulting practice. In this regard, the author, Stuart Walesh, has a great deal of experience in what he calls “flying solo”. He is clearly both an experienced practitioner and a scholarly academic.
The book is organized into 8 sections or “parts”. The parts are broadly focused on: personal roles and goals; communica-tion; learning and teaching; improving productivity; meetings; marketing; building mutually beneficial partnerships; and a somewhat philosophical section related to effecting change. The work is structured into 52 separate and distinct essays or “lessons”. Most of the lessons are aimed at improving what the author refers to as “soft-side” skills (as compared to “hard-side” technical skills) and focus on helping the reader improve his or her management and leadership skills. The author also instills a great deal of psychological advice. More importantly, the essays highlight the real “school of hard knocks” lessons learned along the way. Due to the book’s short essay structure and the jumping to different topics covered from lesson to lesson, I found it difficult to read more than a few lessons consecutively. Even though the lessons are very short, averaging less than 5 pages each, I think most readers would find it an easier read if they focused on only one or two les-sons a week. One lesson at a time would be almost a requirement if the reader follows the advice given in each lesson and embarks on the pragmatic steps that are included and recommended in each lesson.
A few of the lessons may seem a bit hackneyed to old hands, but the great majority of the lessons are good ones and all bear a unique perspective. The lessons usually recommend action items, guidelines, check lists, follow-up chapters and a wealth of other resource materials, to help the reader master the lesson theme.
From a management consulting perspective, one of the most interesting essays for me was Lesson 22 titled: “p5: Preparing, Presenting, and Publishing Professional Papers”. Although the lesson gives very little information on preparing and pub-lishing, the author does focus on presentation and points out 3 highly recommended phases for successful presentations (the author’s engineering background shows through in the super script lesson title of p5 and when he uses the term T3 for the phases). Simply put, one must “tell them what you are going to tell them”, then “tell them”, then “tell them what you told them”. In this lesson, he also discusses the three basic learning styles of any audience: auditory, visual and kinesthetic, and how to develop a presentation to communicate with all of them. This includes a discussion of how to use 7 distinctly dif-ferent colors to classify and convey messages symbolizing feelings ranging from trust to power.
Another essay I found to be most interesting and important for management consultants is Lesson 42 titled: “A Simple Pro-fessional Services Marketing Model”. In this lesson, the author discusses the Covey model that is drawn from Greek philosophy (Ethos, Pathos, Logos) and must be established and followed in that orde
The author correctly points out that for many individuals, and technical people in particular, the rational tendency is to start with logos, instead of ethos, which typically leads to less-than-satisfactory results. Technically oriented people tend to pro-ceed too quickly with and rely too much on logic. In this lesson, the author also discusses, albeit briefly, the “marketing approaches that work and the ones that don’t”. In addition to citing Covey’s classic work (the 7 habits of highly effective people), he also recommends reading an excellent article that appeared in the November, 1998 issue of the Journal of Man-agement Consulting titled: “Marketing 101: how I got my ten largest assignments” by P.P. Lantos. One of the more inter-esting quotes in this lesson is by the author David Maister: “What you do with your billable time determines your current income, but what you do with your non-billable time determines your future”.
Strangely, the publisher lists a higher international price for the book yet Lesson 8, titled “Thank our 50 Stars”, is written solely for U.S. citizens and could potentially irritate some international consultants. Also, some of the lessons may sound a bit familiar to well read management consultants. The author appears to have studied the works of dozens of other famous and not-so-famous management thinkers and writers such as Carlson, (Don’t sweat the small stuff . . .), Collins (Good to great . . .), Covey (the 7 habits of highly effective people), Hammer (The reengineering revolution . . .), Tom Peters (The pursuit of WOW . . .), Zig Zigler (Top performance), and many more. The author places a relatively high emphasis on Covey’s 7 habits work. He also places a very high emphasis on some of his own previous writings. The lessons draw very heavily from an ASCE published book he authored in 2000 titled “Engineering your future: the non-technical side of pro-fessional practice in engineering and other technical fields”. This “Engineering your future” book alone is referenced in at least a third of the chapters. A half dozen or so other articles or books he has authored are referenced in other chapters as well.
Almost every lesson also references e-newsletters, websites, other books and/or articles written on the theme of the lesson. Usually a third or more of each short lesson’s content refers the reader to other excellent resources. Clearly the academic side of the authors “bent” comes to the surface, since there are more than 170 reference papers or books cited in the bibliog-raphy! In addition to the 170 references, there are also approximately 40 websites and more than 20 e-newsletter subscrip-tions recommended for the reader (Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to read my e-mails now, let alone dozens of new websites and 20 more newsletters!).
Available reading time notwithstanding, the reference information alone is worthwhile to have on one’s bookshelf but there is an even better reason for acquiring this book – the famous (and not so famous) quotations cited in each chapter. Please excuse the engineer in me but I was so intrigued with the vast amount of quotation and reference research that went into this book, I just had to calculate how many quotations were included. Yes, over and above all of the reference material noted above, the author also includes and emboldens more than 315 quotations from just over 225 different people. There are highlighted quotations from Aesop and Aristotle to Woodrow Wilson, and even the author’s high school drafting teacher! This may sound a bit “hokey”, but it is not. Almost without question, the quotations alone are well worth the price of the book. One of my personal favorites appears in the lesson titled “Communicating Five Ways”. The quotation is from Mark Twain and reads: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between light-ning and the lightning bug.” With out a doubt, Stuart Walesh uses the right words.
Reviewed by Edward J. Phillips, P.E. - Originally reviewed for C2M – Consulting to Management Magazine (www.c2m.com). Mr. Phillips has been helping companies plan world-class, lean operations and facilities for more than 25 years. Most of his work focuses on helping companies plan and im-plement lean plant and warehouse operations, consolidations, expansions, and relocations. He can be reached at: (614) 571-4252 or via e-mail at: EdwardJPhillips@aol.com