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Professional Antithesis July 29, 2010

Posted by Jason in Insider's View Relapses.
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Is there a conflict between engineering education and the expectations of the business world? As we observe in real time the development of younger engineers in the workplace, it is difficult to perceive the bigger picture that evolves over several years. However, as we march along through the ups and downs (more…)

Disabling the Alarms July 26, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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A Transocean engineer has testified that several warning systems and alarms were disabled on the sunken Deepwater Horizon drilling rig – potentially some of the links in the disastrous chain of events leading to BP’s environmental and public relations nightmare.

Happily, few of us will have the misfortune of such severe consequences, but there is still a lesson for anyone in business:

What warnings are you inhibiting that might otherwise give you notice that something is not quite right?  Are you surrounded by yes-men or others who are afraid of giving you bad news (or waking you up at 3 a.m.)?  Is your array of financial and competitive sensors tuned to the changes in your markets and your clients?  Or is there an explosive cloud hanging over your head just waiting for the right circumstances to blow up?

If you are fortunate enough to have the right metrics, don’t ignore their sometimes subtle warnings.

Premature Elaboration July 25, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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I wish I could take credit for this phrase. Not only can’t I, but I can’t even credit the right person, since I don’t remember where I saw it. Nonetheless, it provides a great visual reminder that you have countless opportunities to spoil a good relationship whenever you open your mouth to your client. Don’t be the one who vomits your company’s benefits and expertise all over the recipient’s shoes.

Whether it’s a formal presentation to a director or a five minute conversation with a staff member, it pays to keep this in mind. And make no mistake, forgetting your audience for the briefest of moments can and has eroded trust and confidence in your abilities. You may only get one “first impression” but you have to reinforce that impression with consistency and tact with every communication.

It Speaks For Itself July 13, 2010

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that “the data speaks for itself?”  Most in the engineering, architecture, or even accounting fields likely have. In these and other technically oriented environments, we become accustomed to spreadsheets, graphs, and equations. They provide an easily accessible alternative dimension to problems and can aid in visualizing solutions.

But they aren’t for everyone.

A professional who regularly deals with data can lose sight of the fact that charts and graphs are only part of the story. After spending weeks compiling mathematical support for an argument or solution, it can be quite frustrating to present it to a client or the public who must then be led by the hand from the beginning to arrive at the same conclusions.

But lead them you must. The data almost never speak for themselves. They require a story, an analogy, anything that can connect the abstract to your audience’s experiences. Without this, any persuasion you hope to muster will be strongly counteracted by everyone else’s natural dislike of numbers and squiggly lines. Without it, you will be just another Powerpoint statistic.