10 Principles

Based on our curriculum in our Masters and Professional programs at UC Berkeley, there are 10 unique principles that I believe can increase the effectiveness of engineering leaders.   I’ve authored the following evolving list  as a guide for engineering leaders interested in innovation, effective operations, and leadership:

10 Principles of Engineering Leadership
Ikhlaq Sidhu, Chief Scientist,
Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership
UC Berkeley
Revised  March 2, 2012

1.  Business Model Innovation is a rich source of opportunity for new business and effective operations. New business creation is actually the search for a new business model, while effective operations depend on measuring the efficiency of a working business model.

2. The role of algorithms, quantitative technologies, and large data sets will increasingly change  business models and operations. For example, Google has replaced a direct sales force with a double-sided auction within its business model. This innovation would be unthinkable for any large firm 20 years ago. [Googlenomics, Wired Magazine]

3. The primary work of an innovator is the development and coordination of an ecosystem that will support an innovation. The product, service, or lab result is only one component of the innovation.  Another critical skill for an innovator is to learn how to gather and test information earlier in the creation process and in an inexpensive manner.
4. Opportunities for products and services should be considered with respect to market spaces, not product features. Perspective is gained by comparing the entrepreneurial view of observable needs, solutions, competition of today (bottom up) and the strategic view that predicts the technology, industry, and societal landscape of the future (top down).
5. Corporate strategy, including a firm’s dominant business model and synergies between its businesses, should be considered for all engineering driven projects and technology acquisitions. Three questions to ask are:
  • Question 1: Is the sum greater than the parts for a proposed new project or acquisition due to synergy?  Financially, is (i.e., Value [Biz A+B] > Value [Biz A] + Value [Biz B].
  • Question 2: What feedback loop makes the model and strategy reinforcing?
  • Question 3: Where would you reinvest to build competitive advantage?

6. Engineering leaders understand that build and buy decisions are correlated with changing objectives in a firms evolution: mind share (early stage), market share (growth stage), wallet share (incumbent). [HBS, Rangan]

 7. Engineering leaders understand the tradeoffs in product management process models: platforms, products, train schedules, risk reductions, commitments for decisions, and the costs of those commitments. [Product Management Best Practices]
8. Leadership comes from your own character, background, experiences, courage, relationships, and ethics; not from a title. Consider the following:
  • For every action, decision, or proposal, consider how much of the intention is to serve yourself (as the individual), your organization (above, below, peers, and self), an industry ecosystem (opportunity for the industry as a whole), or society (the broadest stakeholder).  Keep a healthy balance.  However, a leader must not allow real or perceived conflicts of interest, which will undermine the leader’s effectiveness.
  • Lead by letting go, coaching, allowing healthy conflict, modeling ethics, and having the courage to have honest and difficult conversations from the heart.
9. The challenges and solutions that will both make life better and create opportunity for industry exist within an intersecting area bounded by 1) market reality, 2) technology capability, and 3) societal impact.
10. Engineering leaders focus on their own contributions, yet appreciate the perspectives and challenges of other functional leaders; particularly finance, sales, marketing, operations, and even political leaders.