One thing that is certain to happen in your engineering career is conflict. This isn’t because the engineering profession is more prone to conflict than accounting or that engineers tend to be a contentious lot. It’s because, as in any profession, you’ll find people. Wherever there are people you will find conflict. Because of this, it’s important to develop a basic understanding of the three things you need to know to engineer resolution.
Project managers spend the vast majority of their time communicating with others. Depending on the source you reference, the figure can go as high as 80 percent of one’s time is tied-up in some type of communication. A good amount of this time is spent in external communication: the client, the architect, the design team, regulatory officials, vendors, and others. That’s a lot of stakeholders, however, the majority of the time you will invest elsewhere – in team communication. How you approach team communication is by far the most important thing you will do as a project manager.
Effective Team Communication Enables Successful Projects
Think about the teams you’ve served on thus far in your personal or professional time. Some were successful, others not so much. If you spend time considering why success was achieved in certain teams over others, I suspect you’ll find team communication played a role.
Over my career, I’ve served on many teams. Those teams that achieved the best successes by and far enjoyed stronger team communication. The team leader set expectations, maintained open and transparent lines of communication, and encouraged the same across the team. They also were proponents of the Rule of Three C’s – communicate, communicate, communicate.
I attribute the rule to an Air Force Chief I worked with when I was junior captain many years ago. A week didn’t go by where I didn’t hear “captain if you want to be more effective in getting everyone on board you need to communicate, communicate, communicate!”. He was on to something – the teams he led were always the best in the squadron and more often than not, the best on the base.
The take away is that effective team communication enables successful projects. If you foster an environment of open and transparent communication with your team, you also are providing an environment that will enhance the likelihood of project success. Without effective team communication, you greatly reduce the likelihood of project success.
How to Enhance Team Communication
In episode 061 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Shalene Thomas who is the is the Emerging Contaminants Program Manager for Amec Foster Wheeler about understanding emerging contaminants and Regulatory Matters for Civil Engineers.
Here are some of the questions I ask Shalene:
- What is PFAS?
- Why are these substances a concern now or have they been for a while?
- What kind of work is underway to help us better understand the effects these substances have on humans?
- What are the current drivers for action?
- What are some key EPA or state regulations related to PFAS one should be aware of?
- What are options for remediation and clean-up?
- As a civil engineer, what are three important take-away items to know about PFAS?
Here are some key points discussed in this episode on emerging contaminants and regulatory matters for civil engineers:
This is the last installment of six-part series about leadership for engineers preparing for their first professional leadership role.
Not every project you undertake as a leader is going to work out, sometimes you may find yourself having to make the decision to pull the plug. You may already have seen this in your engineering career and if not, you will.
According to Project Management Institute (PMI), only 62% of projects met their original goals and business intent. PMI’s analysis of projects worldwide reveals that for every $1 billion spent in projects, $135 million was at risk from failure. Put another way, 13.5% of every project dollar you will touch is at risk.
As an engineering leader, you’re responsible as much for engineering project success and protection of resources as you are for your team’s performance. In fact, in most organizations failure to deliver projects within cost, on time, and within scope on a consistent basis will result in a sacking. However, sometimes a project will far exceed resources or require someone new with the skills to get it back on track.
As a leader, you’re responsible for maintaining awareness about your projects and knowing when to cut losses and cancel a project or ask for help from an outside entity who can get the project back on track.
Engineers Create Success with Performance Measurement and Risk Assessment
In episode 060 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Martin Andrews, Military Sales Manager for Mabey Bridge Limited about the development of the Mabey Logistic Support Bridge from its origins in the Bailey Bridge.
Here are some of the questions I ask Martin on the Bailey Bridge:
- Can you tell us a little bit about what the Bailey Bridge is and the history of the Bailey Bridge?
- What made the design revolutionary at the time?
- What makes this bridge so useful in comparison to say, a more traditional site-specific bridge design?
- We’re decades on from World War II, so what types of design improvements have been made to the original design?
- Do you rely on an in-house civil/structural engineer design capability to support clients, or do clients use their own civil engineers to design bridge applications?
- What is the design service life for this type of bridge, and what is the longest in-service bridge that you’re aware of?
- What maintenance is required on one of these types of bridges?
- Say I’m a civil engineer and I want to source one of these bridges for a job, what do I need to know?
- Can you share a couple of examples of more recent Mabey bridge applications?
Here are some key points discussed in this episode:
One thing that engineers and project managers have in common, regardless their industry or focus, is the need to access their personal project history. This point is being driven home for me currently as I apply for Project Management Institute’s Program Management Professional Certification® exam. The application – like those you’ll complete for the P.E., Project Management Professional (PMP), or the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) – will require you to provide project- and/or program-specific information: who, what, when, where, and how.
If you have that information locked in your long-term memory and can access it at will, you’re set!
For the rest of us, however, total recall isn’t a reality. While our long-term memory is nearly limitless, our short-term memory is only capable of managing a handful of items. Also, as time goes by, the validity and specificity of one’s memories of the type of details needed for a P.E. exam or job application will wane.
The answer then? Develop and maintain a project portfolio.
Setting Up Your Reflection Process
In episode 58 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Jonathon Monken, Senior Director, System Resiliency and Strategic Coordination in the ITS Division of PJM Interconnection about the resilience of electricity infrastructure systems, Black Sky events, and what civil engineers can do to help reduce risk to the electricity infrastructure systems.
Here are some of the questions I ask Jonathan:
- Can you describe for us the top three resiliency issues that our electrical infrastructure faces in the U.S. today?
- What are, if any, interdependencies with natural gas and communications in the electricity infrastructure system?
- What components of the electrical system need to be addressed first?
- Can you explain what Black Sky is?
- What are some of the mitigation steps that can be taken at the regional level to lessen the duration of outages?
- How does resilience planning different from planning for reliability and efficiency?
- What is your definition of resiliency?
- How can the industry ensure the protection of our nation’s electricity infrastructure systems from cyber-attacks, or at least give operators a chance to limit the impact from a cyber-attack?
- Are there physical barriers that can be used to improve resilience or this a cyber defense only?
- What might be the best role for civil engineers to help in resilience planning to reduce risk to the electricity infrastructure system?
Here are some key points discussed in this episode on the Resilience of Electricity Infrastructure Systems:
This is Part V of a six-part series about leadership for engineers preparing for their first professional leadership role.
Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a recovering perfectionist. It all started when, well, when I was a young child. Blame it on genetics, but I’m afflicted with the ‘perfectionist-gene’; the necessity for every action, every event, and every aspect to be just…perfect.
It’s come in handy in some cases, like developing a logistics plan with numerous stakeholders, target dates, and high stakes outcomes or putting on a 400-plus person multi-national event with a lot of senior leaders. Perfection, or a close facsimile of it, is necessary in some cases. However, it isn’t in most cases.
For those with a perfectionist streak running in them, entering the engineering profession simply reinforces their natural slant towards an error-free life. This was the case for me, and then I added a career in the military on top of it and my preference for perfection was locked
Unfortunately, while there’s a time and place for perfection it doesn’t apply to all situations and at all times. [Read more…] about 5 Tips To Move Beyond Being A Perfectionist In Your Engineering Career
Here’s a topic not often discussed in the offices of the majority of leaders: FEAR. We’ll talk about risk, or problem’s, or setbacks. But never fear. Why is that? Probably because the word “fear” comes with a lot of baggage. Fear isn’t something that’s talked about openly, ever. It’s a sign of weakness or lack of capability.
The truth is, fear is present whether we want to admit openly or not. Leaders have fears, team members have fear, even senior leaders and clients have fears. Fear of failure, fear of looking bad, fear of missing something important that sets a project on its rear…the list goes on. Some of these fears are project or mission related, some are personal.
Regardless, fear still exists. Am I wrong?
Here’s an example:
In episode 055 of The Civil Engineering Podcast, I talk with Kevin O’Beirne, P.E. about working with changes, claims, and disputes on construction projects. O’Beirne gives some excellent tips in the this episode which will help engineers to acquire a greater success rate with regards to construction projects.