It's easy to blame the "bean counters" for bad decisions - and in the vast majority of really bad strategic decisions seem to come down to a "provable" financial decision. These are of necessity backwards looking analysis with steady-state forward projections.
Like driving a car by only looking in the rear view mirror, strategic decision making can work if you're going slow enough and there are no major technical breakthroughs loomin on the horizon.
We work in an environment filled with technological change bubbling around us. Sometimes there are changes coming for valid, defendable engineering reasons that only a technologist can fully understand. Those situations are ones that made for purely financial reasons offer a crippling blow to a company or even an entire geographic region.
@vlsi_guy Thanks for the comment. Fortunately there are always a few hold-outs for sound strategic decision making. Unfortunately, a handful of companies don't create a "jobs ecosystem" that encourages new engineers to enter a specific specialty in large enough numbers to make a difference. On th eother hand, the pockets of good, or accidental, decisions sometimes keep a skill alive.
Space filght is one example - while there is a rebirth of space-capable craft in the private sector, the US has mostly lost the practical engineering skills that landed men on the moon.
@MeasurementBlues I saw that post as was finishing this blog - it was an intersting read.
I dco find that some special;ties are in short suply. <y question has become "why" over the last thirty years. There certainly have been surpluses of various engineering specialties at various times, largely driven by popular enthisiasm for a new technology. Sometimes it's driven by social influence, and other times by the newness of the specialty.
I believe that the whip sawing that electrical engineers experieinced because of bad management decisions had a dramatic impact on the financial attractiveness for engineers to enter the profession, or stay in, a field being (temporarily) decimated by management fads.
I had dinner with a friend who is a medical trancriptionist yesterday. Her job was eliminated because the hispital decided to outsource transcription services. A large company convinced the CFO of the hospital system that outsourcing transcription would be more efficient. And they promised that only native english speakers would perform transcription for the hospital. The CFO is happy because costs have gone down. BUT, turn around time has gone up, not down and because QC of the transcription is done in India by British speakers (their second language) the words are not always correct.
Decisions made for purely financial reasons sometimes have a negative imapct right away. Sometimes the impact is felt for decades.
There's more than this outsourcing issue, in the dichotomy between the thinking of top corporate execs and the engineers that work to make them rich. I totally agree with you that the obsession about "shareholder value" can lead to more outsourcing than would be optimal for the long term (not that this matters to some CEOs, who are looking only for their golden parachute). But even more problematic, the corporate exec's "measure of effectiveness" is purely growth. In spite of their nice-sounding propagandish "mission statements," utlimately if they could sell hamburgers, and show more growth than developing high tech, they would do so in a flash.
It's actually not all that different in academia. The researchers that bring in the most lucrative grants are the heroes of the administration, never mind the long term significance of their work to the knowledge base of the human race.
Hard to say where this obsession for growth will lead. So far, we seem to have muddled through quite well, in the US anyway. I can't help but think that there are more important goals than short term growth, to benefit the paychecks of corporate execs. When their glossy brochures claim that "the company's top assets are its employees," the top execs know full well they are lying through their teeth. The corporate exec simply wants to show the largest possible quarterly and annual growth of his division, whether with these employees, different employees, or no employees at all!
Cliché example: It couldn't matter less to the human race now, whether or not Albert Einstein brought in the most lucrative grant dollars to Princeton. Einstein is far more important to the world than whatever grant dollars his Princeton administration may have gotten all giddy about. Heaven only knows how much truly significant work has had to be scrapped, because bean counters couldn't comprehend beyond their obsession for short-term growth.
A Book For All Reasons Bernard Cole1 Comment Robert Oshana's recent book "Software Engineering for Embedded Systems (Newnes/Elsevier)," written and edited with Mark Kraeling, is a 'book for all reasons.' At almost 1,200 pages, it ...