In episode 009 of the Civil Engineering Podcast, we take a closer look at Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge in St. Louis, Missouri and provide project management advice from Jeff Church, PE and Gwen Lageman, PE, the engineers who worked on the project. Christian will break down the project and I will summarizes 6 challenges the project engineers encountered during the design and construction of the bridge and how communication plays an important role in the success of the project.
There is a stereotype in the engineering world that I would like to disprove and that is, to be successful in your engineering and project management efforts you have to work a TON of hours. I think this is totally false, and I think that this stereotype is causing a lot of engineering and project management professionals to burn out.
I recently had a discussion with a very successful engineering company owner and he actually told me that he tries to do the opposite. He hires really good staff, so that he can work less and enjoy life more. Yes, he actually said that.
I believe that one way to improve the quality of your engineering and project management work is to work less. Yes, work less. Here are 5 reasons/steps why and how you can improve your engineering and project management work by working less.
No project lasts first contact with reality, just like no military plan lasts first contact with the enemy. It isn’t because there’s a lack of good engineers and project managers. No, it’s because these good engineers and project managers didn’t properly assess risk during the planning, design and execution phases.
Yesterday on Engineering.com I wrote about the need for an engineer leader or project manager to know when to cut their losses on a failing project. Project Management Institute in their 2013 “Pulse of the Profession” revealed that nearly 37% of all major project fail. On $1 billion in major projects, $135 million is at risk meaning that 13.5% of every project $1 you’re responsible for is at risk.
That’s a lot of risk. And after seeing reports like this one about a major construction project off schedule, severely over budget, and embroiled in a political scandal; one quickly sees that there has to be a better way for an engineer leader to make certain that if they have a project off vector, they can get it back on vector ASAP.
Use a 9-Line to Get Support
The Army uses what’s called a “nine-line medevac” request process to call in rotary-wing air support for the injured. The very existence of the process is because the Army knows that in the course of doing what it does, there is risk. With that risk, soldiers will be injured and there has to be a standard procedure that every soldier understands for call for help.
The analogy is this: in the course of leading a project there is risk. With that risk, there will be change orders, scope creep, schedule slips and changes in business strategy. In some cases, projects will become so far off course that they will be on the brink of failure. In these situations, the engineer leader needs their own nine-line process to get the project back on vector.
9-Line Project Rescue
Here’s your 9-line project rescue process: [Read more…] about 9 Steps to Get A Project Back On Track
This is a guest post by Githal Pathirana.
Managing projects in any industry is a challenge. Project managers must have the ability to listen thoroughly, think quickly, and delegate properly, all while
tracking results and making necessary adjustments. To say it requires a level-headed person capable of organized multi-tasking is an understatement. A project manager in the engineering industry has the extra challenges of dealing with creative minds that tend to wander as well as those who aren’t necessarily creative, the minds that can get specific jobs done on time but don’t always think outside the box. A successful project manager in the engineering industry will tell you there are five requirements for success in the field. This are especially important to understand and start to implement for those of you currently experiencing a design engineer to manager transition.
Without a solid plan, nothing gets started, much less done. Determine the overall goal, and then break that goal down into parts. Study and research each element, including cost, of each part of the plan. After all, the ultimate goal is a plan that will lead to a finished project on time and within budget. List materials needed and look into what skilled expertise will be required for each step in the process, again including cost, from A to Z.
After laying out a plan, a good project manager will set that plan on a schedule. Of course, most projects take longer than expected due to an incredible number of issues, but a project manager who understands the parts of the plan will be able to craft a reasonable schedule that shouldn’t leave the project running too absurdly late. A project manager constantly unable to meet reasonable goals won’t be a project manager very long. [Read more…] about Five Must Do’s as a Project Manager in the Engineering Industry
From my experience in the engineering industry, and really the corporate environment in general, I realized that there are two types of managers, I refer to them as managers and LEADERS. There are leaders who care about their co-workers and staff and there are managers who really don’t. Let me explain further.
The leaders, who care about their staff, take the time to express gratitude for the things that their staff does for the company as often as possible. They encourage continuous learning and career development. They go out of their way to be a mentor not just a “manager.” These people are generally very well respected by their staff and others, and their leadership fosters a real TEAM mentality. Their team always seems to be totally engaged and WANTS to work for them. Conflict within their department is usually rare or non-existent.
On the other hand, there are managers who often care only about themselves and the bottom line of the company. Managers say the words ‘Thank You,’ once a week if their employees are lucky. They fail to recognize when their employees go the extra mile, causing a feeling of under-appreciation to permeate through their department. They are constantly putting themselves before the team. They fail to delegate or give their staff opportunities to broaden their horizons, usually due to lack of trust. When one of their staff deserves a raise or promotion, whether the manager thinks they do or not, they fail to “go to bat” for their employee within the company, again thinking how it might affect them. [Read more…] about Managers: Do You Care About Your Employees?
Featured Guest Blogger: Robert Mote
Every major project carries out an exercise to determine the Lessons Learned for future projects based on the design and execution of the present project. When a project approaches maturation, project management decides to arrange a three-day Lesson Learned seminar across all disciplines. Some three weeks before the seminar, a spreadsheet is rushed out to all parties and engineers are sucking the pencils to come up with a lesson learned or hoping their colleagues will remember something useful. The engineer may be looking for a job, another project, thinking about holidays and, all too often, the activity of lessons learned is regarded a waste of time. All the engineers and designers who could usefully contribute have long left the project anyway. It is even harder to remember the day-to-day issues of design work long past that would benefit a Lesson Learned. As most engineers do not follow their design through to completion, they cannot know the reality of design is so different to site practices. Project management would consider it a success if ten to twenty items were captured for each discipline as Lessons Learned. Many engineers would also say that nobody reads the Lesson Learned of a previous project or follow them. I take a different viewpoint completely.