This series of posts covers the relationship between the engineering executive and the c-suite executives in a manufacturer. This post sets the background for this set of relationships, specifically in the context of the economic recession of the past two years and the projected recovery of the next two. This background will be the basis for future discussions and posts on this set of relationships.

Wanted: Profitable Growth, Wrong Answer: Cost Controls, Right Answer: Innovative Products

Optimism is good thing, right? After the violent storm that was the economic recession, it seems that the waters have calmed and some stability has returned. And whether c-suite executives see real opportunities or they are being driven by corporate chairmen and boards, many manufacturers are forecasting profitable growth again for the new couple of years. Furthermore, many executives have thankfully realized that the cost control initiatives that might have saved the company the last two years won’t be what drives growth in the next two. In fact, new sales, which is frequently led by innovative products, is generally recognized as a repeatable path to growth. That’s where things come to you, the engineering executive. We could debate the feasibility or plausibility behind such objectives until we’re blue in the face, but all in all, the point is moot. The goal has been defined. How will you achieve it?

You can’t do more with less…You do less with less… (nod o’ thanks to @Andrew_Boyd for quote)

So how do you get down to business. First, take stock. The recession for most manufacturers caused a serious trainwreck in engineering organizations. You took your fair share of the layoffs when the CEO and CFO needed to get costs in line with revenues. But it went further than giving low performers the pink slip. It took away some of your mid-level performers too. Now might seem the most appropriate time to trot out the age-old adage do more with less. However if we’ve learned nothing else from the past two years, it’s that being more aggressive with schedules and workloads without any other changes doesn’t magically make the organization produce more. It just makes your people more frantic, more prone to mistakes and ultimately more likely to leave the company at the first chance. The more pragmatic answer, the one to garner more alignment with your haggard organization, is to work smarter rather than harder.

The following posts in this series will look at additional trends in the relationship between engineering and the c-suite as well as some new strategies and initiatives to work smarter, not harder.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.