Sometimes, it’s the simplest questions that are exactly the hardest ones to answer. In a post last week, I wrote about a book I read some time ago called The Goal (wikipedia entry). In it, the main character struggles to identify both the goal, increased profitability, and constraints of that goal, production bottlenecks and sales limitations, in a manufacturing plant he oversees in an effort to save it from being shut down. Based on that premise, I asked what the analogue is to engineering. What exactly is the goal for engineering? What are the constraints keeping engineering from that goal?
Education and Career Insights
The Challenge of GenY’s Expectations for Engineering
Do you remember what is was like when you were first hired as an engineer? Do you remember the type of work you did? Did you enjoy it? Was it fulfilling? I imagine some of you are laughing at that last question. But in all seriousness. Think about it. Now hold on to that thought while we start to talk about Gen Y engineers. These are the people just graduating from engineering school and getting their first job. They’re just starting off their professional career. Think they’re in the same mental state you were in? Actually, that’s very unlikely.
The Flight Risk of GenX Engineers
To get some perspective on what the Gen X mindset looks like in a professional environment, I’m going to turn back to Tammy Erickson at the Harvard Business Review (HBR) again. Across a lot of blog posts and publications, things aren’t so mixed bag for Gen X. They’re sandwiched between two much larger (in terms of volume) generational cohorts, the Boomers and Gen Y, leading to a lot of dissatisfaction. However, they exhibit the sort of characteristics that engineering organizations need the most right now to bolster economic recovery through new product development.
The ‘Value-Add Qualifier’ Principle
How much of your day is spent adding engineering value to your development projects? Think about it for a minute. All that email. That huge list of issues you track in a spreadsheet. Running across the office with those forms because you heard the engineering director finally came out of that meeting. Let’s face it, there’s a lot of non-value added work that goes on every day in the engineering office.
What is ‘The Goal’ for Engineering?
Besides bringing back memories of years ago, I have to admit, this book got me thinking. In the case of the plant, the goal was to be profitable. The constraints were bottlenecks in production. Alex ends up tweaking and twisting those bottlenecks to up production as well as bring in more sales at lower margins but huge volumes. So what’s the analogue in engineering?
The ‘Get It Right The First Time’ Principle
This article reviews the ‘Get It Right the First Time’ principle, where better upfront design work allows companies to avoid late disruptive problems.
The Engineering Minefield and Unplanned Work
Regardless of what word you use to describe it, engineering a new product often involves the development of new systems, materials, components or any number of other new items. Any new item will have a number of issues that, if left unresolved, will cause product level issues. And despite analysis, testing, qualification or any other type of procedure, some amount of product issues will be unresolved beyond design release. From there, they proceed downstream in the product development process.
Time to Push the Alarm? The Braindrain Threat from Boomer Engineer Retirement
If there were an even distribution of engineers across age groups, then retirement of an entire generation would take away about a third of your staff. However, the saddle shape of the age employment curve means that many engineering organizations are heavily front loaded with Boomer engineers. Furthermore, the far smaller group of Gen X engineers means that there’s not a one-to-one tenured replacement for every retiring Boomer.
Is the Relationship between Engineers and Their Companies Degrading?
My friend was finishing up his week of work in the middle of a Friday afternoon when he got the call. There’s a project in dire straits. They needed him to whip up a procedure for a particular product. Could it wait until Monday? Nope, they said they needed it by end of day. They were going to pass the procedure along to one of their technical centers overseas so they could actually utilize the procedure over the weekend. No waiting until Monday.