Short History of Engineering Management Discipline


Recently, I sat down with Dundar Kocaoglu and Fred Betz to ask about the origins of engineering management as an academic discipline, as well as future challenges and opportunities.  While no comprehensive history has been written, what follows is a starting point for a historian of academic disciplines to begin such a project.  Please send corrections and additions to  These are my notes to help future historians have a good starting point.

In the US 1950s, more and more business and military engineers were making their way up corporate ladders.  Engineering executives asked their academic colleagues to provide rigorous research on engineering management.  Al Rubenstein and IEEE Transaction on Engineering Management was a first response.

By the 1970s, demand for engineering management increased as a result of the oil crisis, Industrial Engineers, Operations Research/Management Sciences. University of Pittsburgh was one successful program highlighted to business executives in the pages of Business Week.

In addition, a former IBMer (VP Personnel) at the NSF, Eric Block, Deputy Director, was increasing engineering efforts, and helped establish Engineering Director and Computer Science at the NSF.

By the 1980s, the NSF convened industry, government, and academia (deans of engineering and deans of business schools) to discuss engineering management in response to Japan’s success in manufacturing and product quality, and concerns over American competitiveness.   The resulting 1987 NRC document was widely distributed in academia and industry (e.g., 400 copies here distributed at IBM to executives). Richie Henrick (IBM) was the Chair of the working group, and formerly reported to Eric Block at IBM.  The representative from Boeing, Phil Condit, suggested a focus on the following: R&D Management, Entrepreneurship, National Economic Development, Corporate Strategy and Interfunctional Effectiveness for New Product Development and Talent Management.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, three communities were growing rapidly – Prof. Dundar Kocaglu (Portland State University, former of UPittsburg) PICMET (management of engineering and technology), Prof. Tarek Kahlil (U Miami and Nile University Egypt)  IAMOT (management of technology (and innovation)), and to a lesser degree engineering management as a minor in business schools and engineering schools (spurred by internet growth and the need for MBAs to understand technology as well as Engineers to understand new business models). However, teaching project management is too limited, there is organizational strategy and regional policy levels that are important in engineering management.

In spite of the growth of hundreds of degree programs worldwide, engineering management communities (e.g., PICMET, IAMOT, etc.) still struggle with balancing industry (technology), engineering, and management.  However, the opportunity clearly lies with Asian nations, which show strong interest in driving engineering management to the next level of maturity (e.g., Thailand, China, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, etc.).

Other questions:

What about accreditation? Will engineering management ever be part of ABET or the Peterson Guide?  What inroads are already present?  What about IIE (Industrial Engineering) interest in engineering management?  What role does ASEE (America Society for Engineering Education) and ASEM (American Society for Engineering Management) play?  Is there any underlying science of engineering management?  What about the role of engineering economics, humanities, arts, design, public policy, social science, economics, etc?   Is engineering management to much rules by fads and gurus?  What has been the role of the Industrial Research Institute?  Who was Richie Henrick and the other members of the NRC (1987) report – what was their roles and contributions?  Who were the major players at the early schools (e.g., Northwestern, Lehigh, UPittsbrug, UMiami, Case Western, MIT, Alabama, Texas A& M, Minnesota, University Missouri)?  What role did NRC meetign and INFORMS/TIMS meetings in mid-late 1980’s play (e.g., TIMS CoETEM Innocation and Entrepreneurship? What role did Bob Sherman, Bert Dean, Bernard Sarchet, Babcock, Geroge Keyworth (NSF), Lynn Preston(NSF), Eric Block(IBM,NSF), ALDON BEAN (NSF), Ed Roberts (MIT – Exec Education), Jim Utterback (MIT), Erich Von Hippel (MIT)? What role Institute of Radio Engineers?  What role Industrial Research Institute? Other major books, journals, publications, conferences, workshops, people, institutions, nations?  Who has kept some of the historical documents? Can some samples be photographed and put in publications, presentation and online?  What role did Industrial Engineering and Operations Research play, and graduate student research projects? What role did industry play? What role did the popular press play?  What role did the Dean at Dean of Engineering Portland State play, what was the proposal for a new graduate program, “shoot the moon”, what role did the decline of Pittsburg industry and rise of West Coast industry and Intel and Tectronics in Portland Oregon play? What role did event like oil crisis and Japanese success play? What relations of management of engineering to Financial Engineering (Wharton), Computer Science Mechanism Design (Auctions), Complexity Science (Nam Suh – complexity for design, basis technology management – design of institution), and New Institutional Economics, Service Science? What role did NSF play, and key leaders over the decades?  Who has mapped the 400+ degree programs, and the nations involved, especially Asia rising?  What were the political headaches, politics of this emerging area, with professional associations, academics schools, industry, government, etc.? What was the role of publishers Wiley, Springer, etc.? What does this tell us about why integration is hard? Why is working across boundaries so hard?   What role did government labs and the military play (e.g., Eric Block, etc. and  Los Alamos Lab – Keyworth industry connection – pushing for innovation, science, military effectiveness, industrial competitiveness)?  Would people be better off getting double degrees, one in engineering, one in business (such as an MBA), and real-world experience, and then taking engineering management as executive education? How can IAMOT and PICMET  get more industrial people involved? How can engineering management be accredited by ABET?  Where do you hire engineering management graduates in corporations – as strategy staff to executives? How can a scientific foundation be laid for engineering, management, design, arts, and public policy?  What systems are the focus of study of engineering management and at what levels of business and society?


Betz, F. (1987). Managing technology: competing through new ventures, innovation, and corporate research (pp. 249-258). Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Cleland, D. I., Kocaoglu, D. F., Brown, J., & Maisel, J. W. (1981). Engineering management. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Dean, W. C., Gannett, E. K., Cetron, M. J., Goldhar, J. D., Pearson, A., Martino, J. P., … & Ettlie, J. E. (1985). Reflections on Al Rubenstein. Engineering Management, IEEE Transactions on, (4), 144-149.

Khalil, T. M. (2009). Management of technology. Tata McGraw-Hill Education.

National Research Council (1987) Management of Technology: The Hidden Competitive Advantage. Task Force on Management of Technology. Chairman: Richie Henrick (IBM).  URL:

By Jim Spohrer, PICMET Fellow (honored at PICMET 2013 in San Jose, CA)
All errors above are my own, and I appreciate corrections being sent to me.


Link to my PICMET 2013 Keynote presentation:

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