Book Review: Management of Technology: Managing Effectively in Technology-Intensive Organizations

    By: PDMA Headquarters on Oct 02, 2013

    Book Review: Management of Technology: Managing Effectively in Technology-Intensive Organizations 

    By: Hans J. Thamhain, Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. , 2005 . 381+xii pages 
    Review by: Steve Guerin

    Book ImageThis is a valuable reference book written with an academic slant and from a technical manager's perspective and represents the author's collective effort of 10 years of formal field research in the area of engineering and technology management as well as 20 years in high-technology management positions in large corporations. Hans Thamhain is professor of management and director of the Technology and Management Programs at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.

    The book is meant to be a professional reference for managers and technology-oriented professionals at all levels in industry, as well as a text for college courses in technology management. It is well organized, with a total of 14 chapters and five appendices. Each chapter contains a common subset of headings that follow the chapter content: “Summary of Key Points and Conclusions,”“Critical Thinking and Questions for Discussion,” and “References and Additional Reading.” This highlights the academic and reference nature of the book. Also, each chapter begins with a small case study using either a large corporation (e.g., GE, GM, Merck & Co.) or a large agency (e.g., NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense) as the example of a particular topic in technology management. This is possibly the only drawback to the book, as a reader in a small company must determine how that example might relate to his or her situation.

    Logically, the scope and definition of management of technology (MoT) should be one of the first topics, and this is precisely what the author states in chapter 1: “The words ‘management’ and ‘technology’ each carry different meanings and boundaries, and in combination, they stand for a wide array of actions, methods, tools and techniques” (p. 3). The author points out that the scope of technology management has not changed and runs parallel to the general field of management. Following some discussions on this point, the author proposes his definition of MoT: “the art and science of creating value by using technology together with other resources of an organization” (p. 6, emphasis in original). The first chapter also emphasizes a common denominator, which is that the speed of advances in technology is perhaps the greatest obstacle to efficient MoT. As if he knew what the reader would likely ask next, the author graphically illustrates the increasing level of technology versus time in Figure 2.2 (p. 26)—prompting a possible reaction from a reader of “How can we cope with such exponential growth in complexity?”

    A chapter-by-chapter analysis is beyond the scope of this review, but some key points in most of the chapters are certainly worth mentioning.

    Organizational issues in technology companies are subject to the constraints posed by the need for flexibility, speed, and efficiency (chapter 3). The author uses examples of organizational designs and forms (e.g., by function, project, matrix) along with their strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 5 presents further discussions on management of people and uses the core management issues such as management of technical work content, talent, and knowledge as a good introduction to other issues such as employee motivation and performance.

    Thamhain provides a good discussion of concurrent engineering (CE) and integrated product development in chapter 4. He sees CE as a unique project management approach, and the criteria for success listed in Table 4.2 (p. 67) are quite revealing and of some considerable value—for example, lay out the master project plan (top level) covering the project life cycle, establish effective cross-functional communications channels and specific methods for work transfer, have tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, and have top management buy in and support the CE process.

    The author covers the people side of technology and organizations in chapter 5, which includes a very good list and description of 16 professional needs critical to technology-based performance. Some examples include interesting and challenging work, clearly defined objectives, job security, and open communication. This chapter puts heavy emphasis on motivational concepts and theories. Table 5.3 (p. 125) presents a useful list of the criteria for managing effectively in a technology-based organization, although many of these items would apply to almost any type of organization.

    Technology project management is considered as a continuously evolving system, and chapter 6 examines the tools and techniques for effective project management. By and large, this discussion is typical project management stuff, such as statement of work, milestones, scheduling, budgeting, and task matrix.

    The following chapter, “Measuring and Controlling the Work,” is probably the best one in the book. An extensive list of analytical management techniques for project control (Table 7.4a, pp. 180–5) with a description of each should be posted in every manager's office, along with the top reasons for project failure (Table 7.2, p. 175). The popularity, skill level, and value of 29 management techniques, studied in field research, were also quite revealing (Table 7.5, p. 189). Schedule tracking topped the list at 99% popularity. The low popularity of benchmarking (42%) and voice of the customer (25%) were somewhat surprising.

    Chapter 8 covers quantitative and qualitative approaches and methods for project evaluation and selection. Examples include net present value and return on investment. Chapter 9, “Leading Technology Teams,” certainly covers the human side of the technology management equation and the anxieties caused by new tools and techniques.

    Managing technical innovation is the subject of chapter 10, which includes a very good discussion of barriers to effective team performance (group dynamics). Table 10.3 (p. 264) lists innovative company performance indicators, for example, quality, patents, and publications.

    It was refreshing to see full environmental cost accounting being presented in chapter 11, which is devoted entirely to the subject of managing environmental quality and contains examples of many companies that have demonstrated environmental stewardship (Table 11.1, p. 284). A useful list of recommendations for implementing environmental quality programs (Table 11.3, p. 298) rounds out this chapter.

    Tools for managing risks in high technology are presented in chapter 12. Perhaps the best quote in the entire book can be found here: “Regardless of the specific tools available, seasoned managers have an intuitive sense of where uncertainties lurk” (p. 307). The results of a field study that revealed 1,000 unique risk situations—subsequently grouped and ranked into 13 generic risk categories of undesirable effects (Figure 12.2, p. 309)—was another useful part of this chapter. Examples include changing project requirements (#1), technology changes (#4), and changing social or economic conditions (#13). The author also identified three subsystems in effective risk management: within work and organizational processes, with analytical tools and methods, and with people.

    The last two chapters were marginal. Chapter 13, “Developing New Business,” was mostly devoted to the bid process, which would be typical of a large organization's continuing battle to cope with the lengthy and cumbersome competitive bid process. Chapter 14, “Consulting in Technology Management,” was mostly a pitch for the need for consultants but nevertheless provided some useful information that an internal “consultant” or manager in an organization could use.

    Finally, the appendices provided listings of professional groups of relevance to technology management, professional journals, conferences, and research centers.

    Overall, this book is useful and informative and engages the reader. The individuals most likely to benefit are new or middle managers, as experienced technology managers will find that most of the content is probably known to them. This is also a good textbook whose main advantage over others is that it is backed by some interesting research that shows up in the tables. The author's mixed experience in industry and academia is probably responsible for his useful viewpoints.

    . Hans Thamhain is professor of management and director of the Technology and Management Programs at Bentley College in Waltham, Massachusetts.

    The book is meant to be a professional reference for managers and technology-oriented professionals at all levels in industry, as well as a text for college courses in technology management. It is well organized, with a total of 14 chapters and five appendices. Each chapter contains a common subset of headings that follow the chapter content: “Summary of Key Points and Conclusions,”“Critical Thinking and Questions for Discussion,” and “References and Additional Reading.” This highlights the academic and reference nature of the book. Also, each chapter begins with a small case study using either a large corporation (e.g., GE, GM, Merck & Co.) or a large agency (e.g., NASA, the U.S. Department of Defense) as the example of a particular topic in technology management. This is possibly the only drawback to the book, as a reader in a small company must determine how that example might relate to his or her situation.

    Logically, the scope and definition of management of technology (MoT) should be one of the first topics, and this is precisely what the author states in chapter 1: “The words ‘management’ and ‘technology’ each carry different meanings and boundaries, and in combination, they stand for a wide array of actions, methods, tools and techniques” (p. 3). The author points out that the scope of technology management has not changed and runs parallel to the general field of management. Following some discussions on this point, the author proposes his definition of MoT: “the art and science of creating value by using technology together with other resources of an organization” (p. 6, emphasis in original). The first chapter also emphasizes a common denominator, which is that the speed of advances in technology is perhaps the greatest obstacle to efficient MoT. As if he knew what the reader would likely ask next, the author graphically illustrates the increasing level of technology versus time in Figure 2.2 (p. 26)—prompting a possible reaction from a reader of “How can we cope with such exponential growth in complexity?”

    A chapter-by-chapter analysis is beyond the scope of this review, but some key points in most of the chapters are certainly worth mentioning.

    Organizational issues in technology companies are subject to the constraints posed by the need for flexibility, speed, and efficiency (chapter 3). The author uses examples of organizational designs and forms (e.g., by function, project, matrix) along with their strengths and weaknesses. Chapter 5 presents further discussions on management of people and uses the core management issues such as management of technical work content, talent, and knowledge as a good introduction to other issues such as employee motivation and performance.

    Thamhain provides a good discussion of concurrent engineering (CE) and integrated product development in chapter 4. He sees CE as a unique project management approach, and the criteria for success listed in Table 4.2 (p. 67) are quite revealing and of some considerable value—for example, lay out the master project plan (top level) covering the project life cycle, establish effective cross-functional communications channels and specific methods for work transfer, have tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty, and have top management buy in and support the CE process.

    The author covers the people side of technology and organizations in chapter 5, which includes a very good list and description of 16 professional needs critical to technology-based performance. Some examples include interesting and challenging work, clearly defined objectives, job security, and open communication. This chapter puts heavy emphasis on motivational concepts and theories. Table 5.3 (p. 125) presents a useful list of the criteria for managing effectively in a technology-based organization, although many of these items would apply to almost any type of organization.

    Technology project management is considered as a continuously evolving system, and chapter 6 examines the tools and techniques for effective project management. By and large, this discussion is typical project management stuff, such as statement of work, milestones, scheduling, budgeting, and task matrix.

    The following chapter, “Measuring and Controlling the Work,” is probably the best one in the book. An extensive list of analytical management techniques for project control (Table 7.4a, pp. 180–5) with a description of each should be posted in every manager's office, along with the top reasons for project failure (Table 7.2, p. 175). The popularity, skill level, and value of 29 management techniques, studied in field research, were also quite revealing (Table 7.5, p. 189). Schedule tracking topped the list at 99% popularity. The low popularity of benchmarking (42%) and voice of the customer (25%) were somewhat surprising.

    Chapter 8 covers quantitative and qualitative approaches and methods for project evaluation and selection. Examples include net present value and return on investment. Chapter 9, “Leading Technology Teams,” certainly covers the human side of the technology management equation and the anxieties caused by new tools and techniques.

    Managing technical innovation is the subject of chapter 10, which includes a very good discussion of barriers to effective team performance (group dynamics). Table 10.3 (p. 264) lists innovative company performance indicators, for example, quality, patents, and publications.

    It was refreshing to see full environmental cost accounting being presented in chapter 11, which is devoted entirely to the subject of managing environmental quality and contains examples of many companies that have demonstrated environmental stewardship (Table 11.1, p. 284). A useful list of recommendations for implementing environmental quality programs (Table 11.3, p. 298) rounds out this chapter.

    Tools for managing risks in high technology are presented in chapter 12. Perhaps the best quote in the entire book can be found here: “Regardless of the specific tools available, seasoned managers have an intuitive sense of where uncertainties lurk” (p. 307). The results of a field study that revealed 1,000 unique risk situations—subsequently grouped and ranked into 13 generic risk categories of undesirable effects (Figure 12.2, p. 309)—was another useful part of this chapter. Examples include changing project requirements (#1), technology changes (#4), and changing social or economic conditions (#13). The author also identified three subsystems in effective risk management: within work and organizational processes, with analytical tools and methods, and with people.

    The last two chapters were marginal. Chapter 13, “Developing New Business,” was mostly devoted to the bid process, which would be typical of a large organization's continuing battle to cope with the lengthy and cumbersome competitive bid process. Chapter 14, “Consulting in Technology Management,” was mostly a pitch for the need for consultants but nevertheless provided some useful information that an internal “consultant” or manager in an organization could use.

    Finally, the appendices provided listings of professional groups of relevance to technology management, professional journals, conferences, and research centers.

    Overall, this book is useful and informative and engages the reader. The individuals most likely to benefit are new or middle managers, as experienced technology managers will find that most of the content is probably known to them. This is also a good textbook whose main advantage over others is that it is backed by some interesting research that shows up in the tables. The author's mixed experience in industry and academia is probably responsible for his useful viewpoints.

    Released: October 2, 2013, 11:57 am | Updated: November 20, 2013, 12:21 pm
    Keywords: PDMA Blog


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