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by Don Kennedy, President of The International Engineers Conference on Ethics.
Early in my career, the regulator of the Engineering profession in my area hosted an afternoon workshop on ethics. There were about 400 people divided into groups of about 10. They gave us topics to discuss. I recall one question was "do Engineers owe a greater ehtical duty to the client or their employer?" In such a setting, people will often tend to say things they think they are supposed to say rather than what they honestly believe. As it was, about 15 tables came to the conclusion that there was a greater duty toward the client and 25 said employer. There was considerable debate and it struck me how each table became a tribe that supported their cause. That is, it defies random distribution that all the people at each table would hold similar views that are the opposite of the opposing tables. Each side defended their view. No concensus was reached that day.
For the question asked at the workshop, it struck me as odd that there could be any discussion. But if you take the perspective that somehow engineers are protectors of the public against the actions of management, you might think that the expected answer is that this would extend to protecting clients against your employer. For people who want to provide the expected answer they will think up reasons to support their quickly reached conclusion.
However, the direct consequence of taking the stand that your loyalty is to outside groups is called acting in conflict of interest. Conflict of interest is not ethical behavior, especially when you are being paid to act in the best interests of the side you working against. For a simple example, let us say your company is negotiating a contract that has an 80% margin. The 15 tables are essentially arguing that it is the duty of an engineer to go to the client and tell them your employer could offer a 30% discount and still want the job. The Kantian view of ethics implies that the correct action is the one that applies universally.
Even though we can all now (I hope) agree that ethics dictates that an engineer owes loyalty to their employer over customers, I would like to now mention a common occurrence I see from time to time. If you have ever worked for a large organization, you will know that there are many times you might need contingent workers to provide help over a short time. One of the easiest ways to meet this demand is to bring in contracted workers from a large Engineering services company. The service providers are typically leery to send their people into another organization. The transplanted workers will often behave in a way that clearly shows they have shifted their loyalty to their host organization. A big driver for this behavior is that the worker wants to jump over to be a permanent employee of their host. It happens very often when we have sent people in only to hear a few months later than the workers sent to the client are now giving notice and joining the client organization. Twenty years ago, there may have been damage to the professional reputation of the engineer that jumped, but today changing jobs is so ubiquitous that no one can keep track of all the places different people worked or why they left any of their jobs.
The above situation highlights the real life ethical challenges that face engineers. Most of the discussion on ethics involves illegal activity or issuing designs that cause catastrophic failure. In a workshop, we can usually reach a consensus of what is ethical and what is not and people agree they would be ethical. How many of us would not readily accept an increase in pay and stay working in the same office we are now in?
I have been in situations where I worked for an Engineering service provider and was seconded to a client who in turn seconded me to a competing service provider who in turn seconded me to another client. I recognized many urges to shift loyalties but I managed to remember who was paying me to be there. Being ethical is a personal choice that can create personal dilemmas. It is important for engineers to remember the responsibility they carry and where their loyalties lie.
About the Author: Dr. Don Kennedy has been a regular attendee of the ASEM conference since 1999, with particularly good participation at the informal late evening "discussions" (sometimes making it difficult to get to the morning plenaries). He has spent much of his time working on large construction projects in remote areas, lecturing at a few universities, and is now trying his hand in an unfamiliar role as a director of engineering in R&D. Don Kennedy is the President of The International Engineers Conference on Ethics.
by Alexis Devenin, MBA, PMP
When we think of project success, we think in several variables. First of all, in the “Iron Triangle”, that means scope, time and cost. Additionally, we think of quality, sustainability, and safety. In each of these parameters, it’s expected that the project achieves a specified performance. If we think in a simple case in which all the parameters have the same importance, we can draw a spider chart with all the variables, setting the performance target as the 100%, and then draw the projected or actual performance, like in the next example:
In the example, the project performs very good in scope and quality, fairly good in safety, regularly in time, unsatisfactory in sustainability and very poor in cost. The radial chart allows you to see the gaps between target and actual performance. Nevertheless, this is a neutral regard in which all the parameters have the same importance or weight in the evaluation. We have to realize that each stakeholder or group of stakeholders have different priorities and they value differently the importance of the variables in the project success.
Consider a stakeholder for whom the most important parameter is cost. For this stakeholder, the cost performance has the double of importance than the performance of time, scope and other parameters. We can visualize that including a weighting factor in the cost variable in the radial chart. For this stakeholder, the success pattern has the following shape:
You can see a very different success pattern shape than the previous equal weighted parameters chart. And you can notice that the performance of the project looks very much worst in this chart than in the first. Clearly, for this stakeholder, the project presents a very poor performance.
Now consider a second stakeholder, one who is focused in scope and quality, probably the final user of the product of the project (for instance an operation’s manager in the case of the project consist in a production line). In this case, the project success pattern has the following shape:
For this stakeholder, the performance of the project looks very good, and you can visualize that in the fact that the shape of the actual performance pattern “fits” very well in the success pattern shape.
As a third case, consider a stakeholder concerned with safety and sustainability. For this stakeholder, the success pattern shape is the following:
This stakeholder will judge the project performance as insufficient or unsatisfactory, and you can visualize that in the fact that the actual performance pattern presents large clearances into the success pattern shape.
Now let’s look at the same time the three “success pattern shapes” associated with the three stakeholders:
We are talking about the same project, with exactly the same performance, but here we have three very different success criteria and three very different evaluations of the achieved performance.
I would like to invite you to do this exercise in your project. You can implement it in a spreadsheet or even you can do it on a piece of paper. While doing this exercise, you will have to reflect on your stakeholders’ priorities and values, and with the insight that you acquire, you will be better prepared to manage them, and you will know where to focus your work and resources to minimize the more valued performance gaps.
About the Author: Alexis Devenin is a Mechanical Engineer with his MBA and PMP certification. He is an Engineering Project Manager with 20 years of experience in the Steel, Mining and Renewable Energy industries.
by Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PE, CPEM, PMP, NPDP
In October, I had the pleasure of representing ASEM in the technical sessions, workshops, and vendor booth at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Trish Simo Kush and Patrick Kush first gave me a quick rundown on how to engage folks who stopped by the booth. It was enlightening to see so many of my fellow ChEs interested in growing their careers with ASEM’s support in the EMBOK, certification, membership, and chapters.
Perhaps the most interesting workshop at the conference was on the topic of unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion. The term “covering” was used to define when we conceal an important aspect of ourselves in order to respond to perceived fears or workplace threats. We typically cover in four areas: appearance, affiliation, advocacy, and/or association. About 60% of all people “cover” in the workplace by changing or hiding characteristics within these four arenas. One lady shared that she covered her affiliation by concealing that she had grown up very poor. While many others viewed her story as one of resilience and perseverance, she expressed shame.
And that is the lesson we can all learn about unconscious bias, diversity, and inclusion. Our own perceptions – of ourselves and of others – can limit our ability as leaders. We must work to build trust by communicating openly and honestly in the workplace. An inclusive work environment leads to better talent acquisition and improved outcomes for the organization as a whole.
Another great session at the AIChE conference taught engineering and technology leaders that marketing is not bragging. Each individual must understand his or her own values to craft a personal brand. Our brand includes business and technical skills, soft skills, and our reputation. We reflect our personal brand through social media, in presentations, and in our daily workplace conversations. The take-away: It’s okay to share our achievements as successful engineers and engineering managers.
Yet another workshop built upon these themes by teaching that communication is at the core of successful project management and execution. Projects are as much about people as they are about scope, schedule, and budget. Learning to trust your team and to have them trust you as a leader is more important to successful project implementation than is creating a perfect Gantt chart.
I also had the pleasure of attending AIChE’s Management Division’s award presentation to Gayle Gibson, retired from DuPont. She, along with other panelists led by ASEM member, Harold Conner, described challenges in transforming organizations. Communication, trust, and diversity also were webs throughout the panelists’ remarks.
I want to thank ASEM for creating a presence within the AIChE community. As a ChE and a CPEM, I may be biased, but I see significant opportunities for a mutually beneficial relationship to continue between the associations. Based on booth attendance, we definitely should have more members with a ChE background joining us soon at ASEM!
Entrepreneurial You by Dorie Clark. Harvard Business Review Press: Boston, MA (2017). 254 pages. US$28.00 (hard cover).
My home office is about three miles from my gym. During the winter, when the sun sets early, I walk to the gym rather than ride my bike. You just can’t trust that cars will see a cyclist! Walking gives me 50 minutes a day to listen to podcasts or music. I often listen to the Harvard Business Review’s podcast.
A recent episode included an interview with Dorie Clark on the topic of portfolio careers. I knew I had to read the book after listening raptly to stories of entrepreneurs diversifying their income streams. And, “Entrepreneurial You” did not disappoint.
“Entrepreneurial You” is a great book for engineering managers, professors, and anyone who works more than one job. Some of us already own small businesses and can use Ms. Clark’s guidance to grow our influence while others can reference the book as they consider free-lancing or post-retirement careers.
The first two chapters of “Entrepreneurial You” teach us to build our own brand. Just like a product has an expected reliability, each person must establish himself or herself as a trusted expert in his or her own field. “We have to find a way to build trust with the people in our audience and make them want to do business with us,” (pg. 19, emphasis added).
Part Two of “Entrepreneurial You” offers tactical and operational guidance for entrepreneurs to build portfolio careers. Chapter 4, for example, illustrates steps to become a coach or consultant. Chapter 6 advises how to set up a podcast and monetize the activity. Finally, Chapter 8 describes how many business people have set up exclusive events and conferences for specialized audiences to share and learn from one another. So, even if you are not considering another gig, you can use the information from these chapters to enhance organizational communication.
In Part Three, the author describes various online avenues to expanding one’s reach and influence. To be honest, Chapter 11 on affiliate marketing makes me a bit uncomfortable, but the author assures us throughout the text that moving out of our comfort zone is a pathway to growth. In this chapter and others, she emphasizes the importance of growing a mailing list (also important for any engineer working in sales or marketing).
Ms. Clark concludes “Entrepreneurial You” in Chapter 12 with the advice to choose from the buffet of options in the book to construct a portfolio career that fits our own unique lifestyle. For example, while growing my business is important to me, it’s also a priority for me to work out at the gym every day. Understanding who you are, and your own strengths and weaknesses make you better suited to selecting appropriate, diversified income streams.
I really enjoyed reading “Entrepreneurial You.” You can listen to the HBR podcast here (about 20 minutes) to see if you want to invest another 5 or 6 hours reading the book. My copy is highlighted and dogeared as I continue to review and revisit much of the information presented. I highly recommend “Entrepreneurial You” for anyone who has embarked upon or plans to begin a free-lance, portfolio careers as an engineer, engineering manager, or consultant.
What is your biggest challenge in managing multiple careers?
Teresa Jurgens-Kowal, PhD, PE, PMP, CPEM, NPDPGlobal NP Solutions, LLC
By Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA
(Blog #10 EMBOK series)
In this ninth installment on the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge, I tackle a subject near and dear to my heart: Systems engineering. Today, I’m going to share an overview of what systems engineering is and some of the major themes and concepts from that domain.
Photo credit: https://stocksnap.io/author/4436
What Is Systems Engineering?
One of the first issues most people face in understanding systems engineering is in defining what systems engineering is in the first place. The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) calls systems engineering an interdisciplinary approach and means for the realization of successful systems. Systems engineering has been called a practice, a process, and a profession. A system can be just about anything that transforms inputs into outputs, but is traditionally understood to be a large scale, complex design, like a warship, or an enterprise, for example.
Systems engineering emerged as a response to the failure of traditional engineering design methods to deal well with the increasing complexity and interconnectedness of engineering designs, particularly in the defense and aerospace industries following the Second World War.
Systems engineering aims to deal with the complexity and complicatedness of modern systems through specialized techniques that allow for systems that, at the end of the day, perform how they’re meant to at a cost agreeable to the customer.
Systems engineers focus a great deal of time and attention on defining needs and functions early in the development of a system. Before any detailed design, there are several iterations of requirements definition and analysis to ensure that what is being designed meets the strategic objectives and the tactical needs of the acquiring organization. After all, if you’re designing a fighter jet, there are a lot of needs and requests that need to be balanced and understood!
Along with a focus on detailed requirements gathering, there is also a focus on documentation. While this is important for all engineers, the importance of careful documentation grows exponentially along with the complexity of the system, the number of stakeholders involved, and the timespan over which the design is executed.
Another area of particular focus for the systems engineer is on the full lifecycle of the system. While there is no one “correct” lifecycle, INCOSE suggests that all systems progress through the following stages (not necessarily sequentially):
Systems engineering demands that a system be designed with all of these stages in mind from the start. For example, understanding the constraints in place to retire a given system will likely influence the materials used in the production stage.
System – A system is a “whole” consisting of interacting “parts”. For systems engineering purposes, systems are generally man-made, developed and used for a specific environment to deliver specific benefits.
Emergent Behaviour – A system’s emergent behaviour is that which cannot be fully understood by the behaviour of the individual constituent parts. Systems engineers seek to understand and manage emergence in their systems.
Validation and Verification – A system is valid when it’s the right system for the job. A system is verified when it has been shown to meet all of its requirements. In other words, validation and verification are used to show that you built the right system, and that the system was built right.
Enabling Systems – Enabling systems are those other systems that exist at various points throughout the lifecycle of a given system that enable it to exist or operate. For example, an airport would be an enabling system for an airplane during the airplane’s utilization stage. A factory could be an enabling system for that same airplane’s production stage.
The use of systems engineering can be extremely valuable when conducting systems projects. A study by Eric Honour showed that spending 14% of a systems project’s budget on systems engineering helped those projects get completed on time and on budget. The same study showed that over- or under-spending on systems engineering was correlated with poor budget and schedule performance.
Perhaps the most important takeaway for non-systems engineers is that an early focus on a system’s constraints and requirements can pay enormous dividends later in the systems’ life. While it can often be tempting to jump into design in order to show “progress”, patience in the early days of a project can be extremely valuable. I suspect many of us have been in situations where we worked quickly to complete an assignment, only to have our customer say, “This isn’t what I wanted!”, even if it was what they asked for. Using the tools and techniques developed by systems engineers can avoid this kind of problem, and help get the right systems delivered, on time, and on budget.
Patrick Sweet, P.Eng., MBA, ASEP is a recognized expert in engineering management and leadership with expertise in systems engineering, project management and product management. You can read more from Pat at the Engineering & Leadership blog.
Dr. Kwasa’s research focuses on value-based systems engineering and multidisciplinary design optimization. Dr. Kwasa’s current research involves UAS design and applications, healthcare systems integration and organization design for large-scale complex engineered systems. Kwasa attained his Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Iowa State University between 2008 and 2017. His B.Sc and Ph.D were earned in Aerospace Engineering while his M.Eng was earned in Systems Engineering. Originally from Kenya, Kwasa very much enjoys looking for ways to solve engineering problems by lessons learned from numerous life experiences growing up in a developing nation.
About the Founder's Award, Student Chapter
This award recognizes ASEM student chapter excellence.
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Founder's Award, Student Chapter
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Steven M. Corns an Associate Professor of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He received his PhD degree in mechanical engineering from Iowa State University in 2008. Dr. Corns research interests include computational intelligence applications, the mechanics of information transfer in evolutionary algorithms, and model based approaches for complex systems design and analysis.
About the Founder's Award, Graduate
This award recognizes graduate engineering management program leadership.
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Founder's Award, Graduate
Edward A. Pohl is a Professor and Head of the Industrial Engineering Department and holder of the 21st Century Professorship at the University of Arkansas. Ed also served as the Director of the Center for Innovation in Healthcare Logistics (CIHL) and past Co-Director of the Institute for Advanced Data Analytics at the University of Arkansas. He has participated and led reliability, risk and supply chain related research efforts at the University of Arkansas. Before coming to Arkansas, Ed spent 21 years in the United States Air Force where he served in a variety of engineering, operations analysis and academic positions during his career. Previous assignments include the Deputy Director of the Operations Research Center at the United States Military Academy, Operations Analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where he performed independent cost schedule, performance and risk assessments on Major DoD acquisition programs, and as a munitions logistics manager at the Air Force Operational Test Center.
Ed received his Ph.D. in Systems and Industrial Engineering from the University of Arizona. He holds a M.S. in Systems Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and M.S. in Reliability Engineering from the University of Arizona, an M.S. in Engineering Management from the University of Dayton, and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.
His primary research interests are in risk, reliability, engineering optimization, healthcare and supply chain risk analysis, decision making, quality. He has served as a PI or Co-PI on 45 Research grants totaling more than $7,000,000. His grants have been funded by DoD, DHS, DOT, NSF and AFOSR. Ed has published more than 50 peer reviewed Journal Articles, over 50 peer reviewed conference papers and given more than 100 presentations at national and international conferences. Ed is the Co-Editor of the Journal of Engineering Management, an Associate Editor for the IEEE Transaction on Reliability, the Journal of Risk and Reliability, Journal of Quality Technology and Quantitative Management, and the Journal of Military Operations Research, on the Editorial Board of the IEEE Transaction on Technology and Engineering Management, and Systems.
Ed currently serves on the Board of Directors for the RAMS international conference. Ed is a Fellow of IISE, a Fellow of the Society of Reliability Engineers, a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Management, a Diplomat in the Society of Health Systems, a Senior Member of IEEE, a Senior Member of ASQ, member of INCOSE, INFORMS, ASEE, MORS and AHRMM.
About the ASEM Fellow Award
Nominees who receive majority support from the Fellows are selected as new inductees. No more than five new Fellows are elected in a given year.
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Link to Past Recipients
The West Point Chapter of the American Society of Engineering Management is a club for the Department of Systems Engineering at the United States Military Academy. The club seeks to explore how engineering management and systems engineering is applied in the real world through trip sections, luncheons, and guest speakers, and we travel to a variety of conferences and companies each year. The club exists to assist its members in developing and improving their skills as practicing managers of engineering and technology and to promote the profession of engineering management.
About the Founder's Award, Undergraduate
This award recognizes undergraduate engineering management program leadership.
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Founder's Award, Undergraduate
Willy Van Overschée was the CEO of CIMCIL from Jan. 2012 until end of 2016. CIMCIL is an independant training center, specialized in workshops and education programs in Operations Management, Lean Management and Supply Chain Management, active internationally for several global enterprises.
Willy is a former IBM-er, having started in 1977 as a systems engineer, and soon after called towards commercial and management responsibilities. He continued his career in the management team of IBM Europe in various responsibilities for the industrial and distribution markets. He returns to the Benelux in 2005, serving as a member of the executive team, both covering the Industries market and supply chain roles.
He is a guest professor at the University of Ghent in the Master program in Industrial Management and CIMCIL board member since 1995. He also was a co-founder in the early existence of Möbius Research & Consulting, meanwhile a leading supply chain consulting firm in Belgium.
He was elected as a full member of the prestigious Royal Academy of Belgium in Engineering, Science and Technology in 1999, where he has been leading several cross-disciplinary academic workgroups in the field of logistics and mobility.
He co-created the European section of the ASEM association in 2018 and is driving a rapid development in the EU 27 countries.
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This award recognizes ASEM Local Section Excellence.
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Presidential Award, Local Section
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