Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Succeeding: Engineer as Peacemaker

Miller Energy engineer
Make Allies, Not Adversaries

Let's take a step away from the technical, but still focus on an important aspect of our work.

As engineers involved in process measurement and control, we are accustomed to everybody else looking to us for answers and solutions. We are the people that make things work. Occasionally the pressure and stress can get a little intense and strip away some of our civility in our dealings with those around us. You may have bitter experience with this as either victim or perpetrator. It never ends well. With a private and candid self-assessment about how we view and interact with other stakeholders in our projects, we may be able to scale down some of our stress and better focus on the reality of the task at hand. Consider the points below. Comment and add a few points of your own.

You are an expert, but so are they.

Accept that, just as you have specialized knowledge that others do not, they have specialized knowledge or insight you may lack. Encourage the sharing of knowledge with those you interface with on a project. Try to be proactive and ask gently probing questions to ascertain the comprehension level of others involved in the project in various roles. Their increased understanding of key project technical concepts will promote more effective communication throughout the duration of the project. It can also help to avoid missteps in your own progress. Good people appreciate the time you take to provide basic explanation of concepts they may not fully understand, but need to know. Make valuable allies of the other project stakeholders by freely contributing your expertise. It is an investment that costs you little, but may pay immense dividends at some future time.

Everybody else's job usually looks easier than it really is.

All jobs have their own special challenges and responsibilities that generate stress. Accept the notion that you probably do not fully comprehend the burdens on those around you. Your portion of the project is certainly critical, but no more so than that of anybody else. Everybody needs to perform or nobody succeeds. Try not to view your project tasks as compartmentalized, but rather as part of the combined joint effort of all stakeholders. Help out others whenever you can. Again, make allies.  

Everybody is somebody's customer.

Whomever you deliver your work product to is your customer. The people delivering their work to you should view you as their customer. Make your customers happy by adjusting aspects of your procedures to better satisfy their needs. In a more technical sense, your modified process output becomes an improved input to their process. Small changes in your delivery may produce comparatively large returns in customer satisfaction. Allies.

Do not embarrass or demean others...especially in public settings.

Embarrassment breeds anger, a desire for revenge, and other bad and unproductive things. Avoid words and deeds that will make a coworker or stakeholder look bad in front of others. If there is a problem, if there is a mistake, try to deal with it discreetly whenever possible. Giving a someone a chance to repair a mistake before it becomes public builds value in your relationship. Certainly, there can be instances where more is at stake than someone's pride. Use good judgement to recognize when you can privately give someone an opportunity to amend a situation without causing harm.

Reach a common understanding of project scope and technical details

Your organization's management or your company's client, whatever the case may be, will likely have project expectations which will be clearly understood in their mind, but perhaps not fully described to all those tasked with specific performance. It is also possible, even probable, these same stakeholders will have misconceptions or a lack of technical knowledge about certain facets of the project. Omissions from the project specs and gaps in the common understanding of technical aspects related to the work requirements can easily turn a fairly straight forward task into a wildfire of organizational mayhem. The way in which these situations are handled must be diplomatic. Injured egos can do more damage to project harmony and progress than the facts ever will. The delivery method for the facts will likely be more crucial than the facts themselves.

It's not about being right. It's about being successful.

At our company we recognize customers are more than merely people that buy things from us. They are people to whom we contribute our time and talent to help achieve their success,... which inevitably will lead to ours. Never hesitate to let us know how we are doing, or how we can help.