Selection of Management Personnel from Engineering Ranks
- James E. Wilson
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- February 1964
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 125 - 127
- 1964. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 7.5.1 Ethics, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 136 since 2007
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Wilson, James E., Vice-President, Shell Oil Co., New Orleans, La.
With the rapid expansion of the business world, good managers are at a premium. Four criteria of a potential manager's quality are: Integrity, Ability, Responsibility and Inspirability. Engineers because of their background and schooling, have good basic qualifications, and they often make good managers if they are aware of the significance of the human element in management problems.
A wrong choice in selection of a manager can be more costly and do more lasting harm than, say, a misjudged financial venture.
Almost exactly 50 years ago four things occurred that had an important bearing on development of petroleum engineering as a profession-Ford built his car; Congress passed an income tax; van der Linden formed a group within an oil company he called "exploitation engineers"; and the Oil and Gas Committee of the AIME was organized with Anthony F. Lucas as chairman. Shortly afterwards, in 1915, the first petroleum engineering degree was awarded. Dating from 1915, it is biologically possible for three generations of managers to have come from the ranks of degree petroleum engineers, but as a matter of actuality we see only two generations yet from this profession. Engineering in petroleum is therefore a relatively young profession. There is no long background of experience or tradition in selection of managers from the engineering ranks as we see, for example, in the military and other professions. The terrific expansion of business in general, especially since World War II, has created a vast demand for managers. A resultant response has been a vast supply of literature, seminars, management consultants-and people who will make speeches about selection of managers.
In preparing for this talk I started out by reviewing some of the literature I have in my library on the general subject of management. I was surprised at the size to which it had grown - pretty much a book at a time. I was also disappointed at the value of much of it and a little amused at some of the promising titles. I found myself comparing it with my golf library on an adjacent shelf - also acquired a book or so at a time and with similar promises of magical things to be revealed inside. On a slightly silly impulse I decided to measure the length of these two groups of books to see how they compared footage-wise. It wasn't too difficult to classify the golf books, and they add up to about the length of a "gimme putt"- customary in some circles. But I had a little difficulty deciding what to include in the management library - for example, what about Lee's Lieutenants, Baruch's Public Years, or the Bible? Now, I'm not a serious student of the Bible, but we find some pretty good things in it. Perhaps you may recall that the Book of Exodus contains what may be one of the very first dissertations on delegation of authority. It is given to Moses by his father-in-law in the 18th chapter. Some years ago, early one morning just as office hours were getting under way, I entered the office of one of my staff after giving a perfunctory rap, military style, on the door. I went in time to see him slipping a Bible into his middle drawer. Rather than let it go unnoticed, I remarked that I hoped he wasn't embarrassed to have me "catch" him reading the Bible. With a relieved grin, he replied that this was the best personnel manual ever published - that it dealt with every problem that would confront man in his relationship to man and his final destiny. I included the Bible in my management stack. There is abundant material on the technique of management, managing oneself, the folklore of management, what managers eat, what managers drink, and even about the selection of managers' wives. There is quite a bit on what a manager is or ought to be, but I haven't been able to find a simple recipe on how to select a manager. I think the transition from plain engineering to management occurs when one begins to get involved in the manipulation of people rather than just the manipulation of things and figures.
Mr. McCaffrey, president of International Harvester in 1953, said, "The biggest trouble with industry is that it is full of human beings". James Forrestal expressed pretty much the same idea when he said, "Nine-tenths of administrative action lies in the removal of human frictions". Now, why doesn't a well-trained engineer just naturally make a good manager? He is disciplined in logical, orderly thinking, analytical methods and schooled in the exact sciences. I believe he might well make an excellent manager because of these reasons - if he isn't too engineering or mathematical-minded. As a general rule, engineers don't put much stock in things that can't be measured - problems that cannot be solved by logic alone.
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