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Elevating the Value of Engineering • Expanding Existing Strengths

Updated: Nov 11, 2021

Part 4 of 5 for the November edition of "Converging over Coffee"

When the outcomes, criteria and stakeholders multiplied and added a lot of complexity to the work of engineers, the nature of the trust that we've always held in engineers... changed.

Engineering itself didn’t get harder. For the most part, we still trust that the professionals will do that well. But we have new problems. When infrastructure work gets complicated by multiple goals, we start to question whether we are even engineering the right things. When the criteria starts to become conflicting, we grasp desperately at any guidance that help prioritize and do trade-offs. When too many stakeholders get involved, we find ourselves managing egos and emotions more than the outcomes. Each of these chip away at the importance of robust engineering work. We just have too many other bigger problems to worry about.

So we can either keep engineering work as separate as possible from these concerns that trouble infrastructure owners, OR... we can accept that the value of engineering that people want no longer JUST lies in conventional engineering work, but also in each one of these new problems. To elevate our value, we must expand and deploy the competencies we already have to address these new problems.

Three ways to do this:

- Build a lens to understand complex insights in order to deliver multiple outcomes that are centered on positive impact and public good, i.e. what our work is about.

- Harness diversity of expertise by building, not minimizing, stakeholder coalitions that are founded on robust methods that we are familiar with.

- Adopt a brand of collaborative leadership that shifts the limelight to elevating people and helping them translate their needs into execution.

In the end, this isn't a story about the struggle of seeking the right reaction to the complexities and the multiple outcomes, criteria and stakeholders. This is about seeing the unprecedented opportunity that these new conditions bring to engineers who are prepared to own and lead such complex systems.

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