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  • 01 May 2024 11:43 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    The Evolving Landscape of Engineering Management Education

    by Ipek Bozkurt

    In the fast-paced world of engineering management, staying ahead means constantly evolving. Technology advances rapidly, industry expectations shift, and global challenges emerge. This also means that the landscape of engineering management education is changing and continuously developing. So, what does the future hold for those pursuing a degree in this dynamic and organic field?

    It's a Numbers Game

    Numbers do not lie, indeed. Those of us in academia have felt (and observed) the changing admission/enrollment trends for a few years now and have faced short- and long-term challenges. According to the 2022 "Engineering and Engineering Technology by the Numbers" report published by the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), there were 458 Bachelor's Degrees, 2,621 Master's Degrees, and 91 Doctoral Degrees awarded in Engineering Management. In 2021, these numbers were 375 for B.S., 2,836 for M.S., and 83 for Ph.D. In 2020, 668 B.S. degrees were awarded, with Master's at 2,044 and Doctoral at 47. Notably, while undergraduate education in Engineering Management is on an upward trajectory, graduate education (Master's, specifically) is following the nationwide downward trajectory. Council of Graduate Schools (2023) reports that domestic first-time enrollment declined by 4.7% between Fall 2021 and Fall 2022, as opposed to the international graduate first-time enrollment, which increased by 10.2% in the same time frame.

    Embracing Emerging Technologies

    The future of engineering management education is intertwined with emerging technologies. From artificial intelligence to business intelligence, students must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to manage these innovations. This is also evident from ASEM's latest webinar series, covering topics such as AI tools and Data Science and Analytics. But it is not just about understanding the technology itself; it's about knowing how to leverage it effectively in a management context.

    Specifically, in graduate programs, students should (and often do) collaborate on projects using virtual reality simulations to solve real-world engineering management challenges. The recent adoption of topics in curricula, such as machine learning algorithms to analyze complex data sets and inform strategic decision-making, can be seen as evidence. The newly certified Master of Engineering Management and Leadership program at Rice University offers a Data Science specialization, while the University of Arkansas offers a Graduate Certificate in Engineering Management Analytics, for instance. These are just a few examples of how technology is revolutionizing how we teach and learn engineering management.

    Matching Industry Demands

    As industries evolve, their demands for skilled engineering managers change as well. Employers are looking for professionals who understand engineering principles and possess strong leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills.

    This shift in demand is driving changes in engineering management education as well. By providing students with a well-rounded education, these programs prepare them to tackle the complex challenges of the future. McKinsey & Company suggested in their 2023 higher education report that institutions should "guide students toward high-ROI, high-employment pathways." Only by ensuring that graduates of Engineering Management are placed in appropriate jobs can we guarantee increasing enrollment.

    Adapting Educational Approaches

    Even before the pandemic, gone were the days of passive learning, where students sit through lectures and take notes. Engineering management education is now interactive, experiential, and hands-on. Students work on real projects with industry partners, gaining practical experience and building professional networks along the way, and most degree plans include immersive learning experiences, such as industry internships.

    These experiential learning opportunities enhance students' understanding of engineering management concepts and prepare them for the realities of the workplace. They learn how to collaborate, communicate, and adapt to different situations – essential skills for success in the field.


    The future of engineering management education is bright. Still, it requires us to embrace change, adapt to new technologies, and think creatively about how we prepare the next generation of leaders. By focusing on emerging technologies, evolving industry demands, and innovative educational approaches, we can ensure that engineering management graduates are equipped to tackle whatever the future holds. Academia and industry can navigate this ever-changing landscape together and build a brighter future for engineering management education.


    ASEE (2023). Engineering and Engineering Technology by the Numbers, 2022 Edition

    ASEE (2022). Engineering and Engineering Technology by the Numbers, 2021 Edition

    ASEE (2021). Engineering and Engineering Technology by the Numbers, 2020 Edition

    Council of Graduate Schools (2023). Graduate Enrollment and Degrees report.

    McKinsey and Company (2023) Report.

    About the Author

    “Ipek Bozkurt is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Engineering Management Program at University of Houston – Clear Lake. She received her Master’s and Ph.D. in Engineering Management and Systems Engineering from Old Dominion University. Her areas of interest are Engineering Education, Negotiation Strategies, Technology Management, Quantitative Decision-Making, and Statistical Methods.”

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content is made available to the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog posts are created voluntarily and are not sold, but may be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and therefore do not go through a peer-review process, and are not fact-checked. All errors belong to the creators.

  • 24 Apr 2024 11:43 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    Managing Project Managers < Part 2 of 2>

    by Donald Kennedy

    For those who have been following my roller coaster career, I am currently working in the planning group on another of my $100 Million projects at an oilsands facility at approximately the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska but 1000 miles west.

    This is a follow up of a post from January, 2024. In that post, I offered three actions that the people who manage project managers can take to help steward the resources under their control towards more optimal outcomes. I see that I presented a paper on a similar topic at
    the 2010 ASEM annual conference in Rogers, Arkansas. The content is based on years of experience looking at successful projects (and of course unsuccessful ones) and noting how the managers above the project manager influenced the outcomes. As well, I have 14 more years of observations to help support my points. For more on the first three recommended actions, see the January blog post.

    Action 1: Learn how to best manage technical people.
    Action 2: Give the project manager the maximum amount of trust and authority within your organization.
    Action 3: Trust the project managers
    Action 4: Allow the project manager to focus on looking forward 

    Action 5: If you really need to know something about completed events wait until the execution phase is over

    One thing that really frustrates me in the middle of a time sensitive project is having to explain variances of the plan versus progress to
    date. The budget might say there are 2 trenches required but 4 were
    dug. Why is that? I tell people below me that there will be plenty of
    time to look at such things at the end of the project and there are
    numerous things that need to get completed now in a very limited time.
    Do these answers really need to be provided now? Sometimes an
    executive will tell me that it needs to get done now because if we
    wait there will not be budget left over to pay people to work on such
    follow-ups. My answer is always that if there is not enough budget to
    explicitly pay for such information, it is not considered a high
    enough priority to be worth doing at all. I have almost never seen any
    analysis of variances used successfully to help future projects

    On a recent project that was $60M in size, the manager above me wanted
    me to analyze the budget breakdown to better match where the costs
    were reported versus where they were originally planned to be slotted.
    I called this work “slicing the pie to see if it changes in size.” On
    this project the manager in question was fired mid project, partly due
    to enough people above him seeing this was not adding any value and
    truly was directing focus away from future planning. Things went a lot
    smoother when the request for budget transfers evaporated.

    At the beginning of projects and data first comes along, there might
    be requests for explanations that are very immaterial in the grand
    scheme but seem important when there is little going on. I recall one
    manager wanting to know why someone was on site that was wearing a
    hard hat that was obviously not theirs. I said to wait 2 weeks when
    there will be 200 people in hard hats on site and see if you still
    take the time to check who is wearing which one.

    Action 6: Allow access to unaltered facts and information

    At one organization in the early 1990s, they were at the beginning of
    moving from paper to digital systems. When setting up their equivalent
    to what would now be called an ERP system, the computer people asked
    my manager what access I should get. My manager was aware enough to
    recognize the advantages of knowing things and the answer was “why not
    give Don full access?” And they did. Ten years later, I would get
    requests from project managers looking for historical information on
    past projects that were perhaps executed by a different department
    that they are not allowed access to under protocols developed after I
    started. The effort required to justify granting access to people
    deemed not requiring it was much greater than just asking me.
    Companies are very protective generally about their proprietary
    information, but I often say that if they are worried about the value
    of the information, just think what their own employees could do with
    it if they had access!

     Action 7: Don’t rob the project team to staff other tasks on the go

    I worked at many places where project managers are assigned projects
    to execute but they are not given any dedicated team members to help
    them. People will then be regularly assigned to other initiatives with
    the thought that perhaps “multi-tasking” will magically allow greater
    productivity by having one person do tasks that would normally require
    two or more. Anyone who has been in this situation must realize that
    having many tasks on the go often assures that they all end up being
    late. In some very large projects, I witnessed great success by
    utilizing outsourced resources but only when these resources were
    pulled out of their parent company and physically placed in the
    project office and dedicated to that project. I also know that large
    EPC firms are very reluctant to allow their employees to go work in
    other locations because they find it is often very difficult to retain
    them after the seconded people get their foot in the door of a much
    better work environment. This speaks volumes about the current macro
    environment where a firm has to restrict exposure of their employees
    to other organizations due to the fear of losing them. If you want to
    explore this tangent more, I wrote many articles on the evils of the
    current high employee turnover being experienced everywhere. But to
    achieve optimal performance on projects, which is the topic at hand,
    installing dedicated staff focused on the project is an action that
    helps the project managers execute their work.

    Action 8: Don’t confuse the team by having them wonder to
    whom they are supposed to listen

    This action is totally within the control of the people who manage
    project managers. To increase the chance of success for project
    managers, they need to be assured their directions are being followed.
    I was on one $100M project where the project manager made the effort
    to get the team to understand that it was much better to get some
    things early than to risk any critical items coming in late. The
    financing cost of buying everything a few months early was
    approximately $300,000. However the cost of delays in execution were
    approximately $100,000 a day. The liquidated damages owed to the
    client for every day the project completed past the deadline were
    $50,000/day. In the end, the project finished a month late ($1.5
    million in damages). The estimate for the overruns due to having
    people standing by while waiting for one critical part was $3 million.
    In a post project analysis, it was eventually discovered that the VP
    Finance was pushing the procurement group to delay purchases to save
    on the financing costs (interest on the money spent buying things
    early). Since the buyers reported to the VP finance and not the
    project manager (reported up the line to VP Engineering), the buyers
    followed the direction of the people who controlled their raises and
    employment. I experienced many examples of similar frustration where I
    follow up on a particular action to discover that my request was
    subsequently overruled by a manager not concerned with the project I
    was executing.

    To conclude 

    I hope you found these recommended actions of interest and useful. Change is unlikely to come from the ground level up. The implementation of these actions lies in the hands of the people directing the project managers and hopefully not also directing the people the project managers believe are dedicated to supporting them.

     Dr. Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM is a long time contributor to the Practice Periodical and ASEM blog.

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content is made available to the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog posts are created voluntarily and are not sold, but may be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and therefore do not go through a peer-review process, and are not fact-checked. All errors belong to the creators.

  • 24 Apr 2024 11:35 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

     Mastering the Transition: A Roadmap to Success for First-Time Engineering Managers 

    by Enas Aref

     Starting a new role as an engineering manager is an exciting milestone in your career journey. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics “architectural and engineering manager jobs will grow 4 % from 2022 to 2032, with 13,600 openings projected each year.” While an engineering management role opens up doors to various opportunities and rewards, it also presents its fair share of challenges. 

    Reflecting on my journey into my first managerial role back in 2007, I faced numerous obstacles. Among them, the most significant was the challenge of shifting my mindset from that of a "performer" to that of a "manager." Understanding the multifaceted role of an engineering manager, as outlined by the American Society for Engineering Management, is crucial. This role encompasses tasks such as planning, organizing, resource allocation, and project direction and control, all within a technological or systemic context. 

    Transitioning into an engineering management position should ideally be a deliberate and strategic process, where both technical proficiency and personal development are prioritized. While some organizations offer support during this transition period, many do not. In such cases, individuals must take the initiative to chart their own path. This involves developing a comprehensive professional growth plan and dedicating oneself to acquiring the requisite skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the new role. If you find yourself embarking on this journey, here are some valuable tips to guide you: 

    1- Understand Your Job Description and Responsibilities: 

    • Familiarize Yourself with Managerial Responsibilities: Take time to thoroughly understand the expectations and responsibilities outlined in your job description. This includes aspects such as team leadership, project management, and strategic planning. 
    • Establish Clear Goals and Objectives: Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goals for yourself and your team. These goals should align with the broader objectives of the organization and provide a clear direction for your team's efforts. 
    • Learn the Organizational Structure and Culture: Familiarize yourself with the organizational structure, reporting lines, and decision-making processes within your company. Understanding the company culture will help you navigate relationships and communication channels effectively. 
    • Stay Informed About Industry Trends: Keep yourself updated on the latest trends, technologies, and best practices in your industry. This knowledge will not only and stay ahead of the curve. 

    2- Identify Your Team’s Skillset, Strengths, and Weaknesses: 

    • Conduct a Skills Assessment: Evaluate the skills, strengths, and weaknesses of each team member. This may involve reviewing resumes, conducting skills assessments, and having one-on-one discussions with team members. 
    • Encourage Open Dialogue: Create a safe and supportive environment where team members feel comfortable discussing their strengths, areas for improvement, and career aspirations. Encourage open dialogue and provide opportunities for feedback and constructive criticism. 
    • Utilize Team Building Activities: Organize team-building activities, workshops, or training sessions to help team members get to know each other better and develop stronger working relationships. This can improve collaboration and teamwork within the team and help when new candidates join your team. 
    • Identify Training Needs: Identify any skill gaps or areas for improvement within the team and develop a plan to address them. This may involve providing training, mentoring, or coaching to help team members develop new skills and grow professionally. 

    3- Set Yourself to Perform, Grow, and Advance: 

    • Seek Continuous Learning Opportunities: Stay committed to your personal and professional development by seeking out learning opportunities. This may include attending workshops, conferences, or seminars, pursuing certifications, or enrolling in relevant courses. 
    • Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with mentors, peers, or industry groups that can provide guidance, support, and valuable insights. Networking with other professionals in your field can also open up new opportunities for collaboration and growth. 
    • Take Ownership of Your Career: Proactively manage your career by setting ambitious goals, seeking out new challenges, and advocating for yourself within the organization. Take initiative in pursuing advancement opportunities and be prepared to step out of your comfort zone. 
    • Embrace Feedback and Self-Reflection: Solicit feedback from your superiors, peers, and team members, and use it as a tool for growth and improvement. Engage in regular self-reflection to assess your progress, identify areas for development, and set new goals for yourself. 
    • Stay Resilient and Adaptive: Recognize that setbacks and challenges are inevitable in any career journey. Stay resilient in the face of adversity, adapt to changing circumstances, and maintain a positive attitude towards your personal and professional growth. 

    The journey of a first-time engineering manager is filled with opportunities for growth, learning, and advancement. By focusing on personal and professional development, building strong networks, and embracing feedback, you can successfully navigate this exciting new chapter in your career. Remember that errors and setbacks are a natural part of the learning process. By openly discussing your experiences and encouraging your team to do the same, you foster a culture of continuous improvement and growth. As you develop your leadership skills and progress in your career, don't forget to support and empower your team to reach their full potential as well. 


    About the Author:

     Enas Aref is a multifaceted professional, blending expertise in education, research, board-certified ergonomics, and consulting across various domains such as STEM Education, Engineering Management, Entrepreneurship, and Product Design. With over a decade of experience in industry and six years in academia, Enas brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her work. 

    Her academic journey is marked by a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, a Master’s in Project Management from Keller Graduate School of Management, and a Ph.D. (ABD) in Industrial Engineering from Western Michigan University. 

    Drawing from years of hands-on experience in engineering and managerial roles, Enas has navigated diverse fields, including Industrial Production, Production Planning, Project Management, Import and Export, and Inventory Control. 

    She is driven by a relentless curiosity to uncover the convergence of technology, management, and human factors, consistently striving to foster innovation and achieve excellence inside the classroom and in industry. 

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content is made available to the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog posts are created voluntarily and are not sold, but may be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and therefore do not go through a peer-review process, and are not fact-checked. All errors belong to the creators.
  • 25 Mar 2024 1:17 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    by Ali Kucukozyigit 

    If I had “super powers”, I would stop calling soft skills and start calling…

    First things first

    I said “if I had super powers” because I don’t have super powers. However, If I had super powers, I would stop categorizing skills that a professional needs to posses as “hard skills and soft skills. You will understand my perspective if you read to the end.

    Photo by Akson on Unsplash

    Who is teaching you the soft skills?
    Of course you heard about;

    • hard skills will get you a job interview, and soft skills will make you get the job?
    • or soft skills will get make you get the job, and soft skills will make you keep the job!
    • or People are hired for their hard skills, but fired for their soft skills?

    These statements indicate that soft skills can be as import as hard skills- if not more at times. I am pretty sure you do not have any problem acquiring and maintaining your hard skills! Every one and every organization thrives to train and educate you on hard skills. They teach them in the classes, they test and sometimes certify you on those hard skills, they even appear on your transcript forever- but wait a sec: How about your soft skills? Who is teaching you soft skills? Do thy appear in your transcript? Do the employers requires a certification on those, or ask for a test score? The answer is a “big NOOO”. In this case, you are the one who needs to improve your soft skills? Are you doing it? Did I hear a big No!

    Photo by Dom Fou on Unsplash

    Here is three reasons for a name tag change

    I have got some objections for naming convention of hard skills and soft skills.I think it is confusing especially for those who hears these categories for the first time. The etymology of words hard and soft does fit in well into what is meant by the phrases — “hard skills” and “soft skills”.

    First of all, It’s not to opposing categories, soft skills are not rivals or enemies of soft skills, as a matter of fact, they should complement each other. Both must be in the toolbox of any engineer. When we named them as soft and hard, it sounds like two opposing meaning like day and night, or wet and dry. These can’t exist together, but hard skills and soft skills must as explained in this blog. When we say hard and soft skills, it creates exactly a similar feeling, and forces us to make a choice between them. We need to start seeing both sides of the aisle as required skills and also start appreciating both skills like we appreciate both day and the night.

    Second, we are teaching more hard skills in the schools and universities and educational institutions, but we are teaching less of soft skills. So in a sense, hard skills are easier to kind of learn because everyone and every institution is teaching it. Nevertheless soft skills are actually hard to learn because it is not taught systematically by educational institutions, employers or mentors and every one assumes that you are hired ready and fully operational in terms of soft skills but this is not true. So it’s really difficult to learn the soft skills or hard skills in this case? Should the name tags be swapped?

    Third and last, when we call hard skills and soft skills it gives an impression that hard skills are the fundamentals and essentials of professions, because they are hard, they are required. On the other hand, when we can soft skills, it gives an impression that it will be nice to have those skills but not as essential as hard skills.As a matter of fact, soft skills are the integral part of the professional development, leadership, promotion, your success outside of your work environment (like family and friend settings) and you will be fired for them.

    To Conclude

    A less confusing name option to replace soft skills might be life skills or human skills! What would you call it if you had super powers? I don’t know if any of you agree with me on this name tag change, but regardless soft skills are very important for your professional career and personal life, They makes us humans human and they can be transferable to any job or activity!

    So embark on a new journey and start learning them today!

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content is made available to the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog posts are created voluntarily and are not sold, but may be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and therefore do not go through a peer-review process, and are not fact-checked. All errors belong to the creators.

    PS: The original piece is written in Medium.

  • 13 Mar 2024 11:42 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    Ethical Decision Making: A Challenge That Every Organization Should Be Prepared For

    by Enas Aref

    Cornerstone of Organizational Integrity and Success

    In the realm of management and industry, ethical decision-making stands as the cornerstone of organizational integrity and success. From the infamous Ford Pinto case to several other ethical challenges in disaster and emergency management, the impact of ethical decision-making reverberates across various sectors.  Ethical decision-making in management is a critical aspect of organizational behavior. To effectively apply knowledge in this context, it is essential to understand the complexities of ethical decision-making especially that ethical dilemmas are an inevitable element in decision making (Arar & Saiti, 2022). As organizations navigate complex ethical dilemmas, the need for a systematic approach to ethical decision-making becomes increasingly apparent.

    The Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) defines ethics as “concerned with the kinds of values and morals an individual or society ascribes as desirable or appropriate” (EMBOK, 2019, p. 301). Ethical behavior can be described as acting in a socially responsible manner by doing the right thing and acting in the appropriate way that yields benefits for the organization’s stakeholders. Ethical behavior may manifest itself in treating others with respect, serving others and building the community, showing justice and manifesting honesty.

    These characteristics of ethical behavior rely heavily on the values of the individuals and their individual or collective behavior within an organization. These characteristics are certainly pre-requisites for ethical decision-making. However, their presence does not necessarily ensure that ethical decision-making will be achieved at all times. For that reason, organizations are highly encouraged to train, promote, and empower their employees to achieve and sustain ethical decision-making. Organization size and location affects the “ethical decision-making” model adopted and practiced by the employees. Research has shown differences between family-owned, small and medium-sized, global, and international businesses in the role that individuals play and how that affects ethical decision making.

     How to Promote Ethical Decision Making

    With that said, let’s discuss how to promote ethical decision making in your organization:

    a) Training

    Training individuals on ethical decision-making is crucial in the field of engineering management to ensure that professionals are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate complex ethical dilemmas that may arise in their work.  By providing training on ethical decision-making, organizations can help employees understand the importance of ethical behavior, develop critical thinking skills to assess ethical issues, and cultivate a culture of integrity and accountability within the workplace. Employees should be empowered to reflect on their own values and capitalize on them and share commonalities with the organization’s values. Human decisions cannot be made apart from their own values. Ethical decision-making training can help individuals in engineering management to recognize ethical issues, understand the implications of their decisions on various stakeholders, and evaluate alternative courses of action based on ethical principles and values. This training can also enhance individuals' ability to communicate effectively about ethical concerns, seek guidance when faced with ethical dilemmas, and uphold ethical standards in their professional practice. By investing in ethical decision-making training and promoting a culture of ethics and values, organizations can cultivate a workforce that is committed to upholding ethical standards and making decisions that align with the organization's values and principles. Ultimately, by prioritizing ethical decision-making in engineering management, organizations can enhance their reputation, build trust with stakeholders, and contribute to a more ethical and sustainable future

    b) Cultural Change

    Promoting a culture where ethics and values are emphasized and practiced is essential in fostering an environment where ethical decision-making is valued and supported. Organizations can achieve this by establishing clear ethical guidelines and policies, providing resources for ethical decision-making support, and recognizing and rewarding ethical behavior. By creating a culture that prioritizes ethics and values, organizations can empower employees to make ethical decisions with confidence and integrity. Enabling people to make ethical decisions in engineering management requires a multifaceted approach that includes training, mentorship, and organizational support.

    c) Leaders

    Do you have an “Exemplar”? That person who demonstrates high sense of moral commitment as a core part of their sense of self (Savur & Sandhu, 2017). Exemplars are the ones that you need to spot, encourage their behavior, empower them to lead and share knowledge. Learning and training does not necessarily have to happen in a meeting room with a prepared slide show and a neatly dressed presenter. Ethical decision-making is a hands-on task that people can learn by observing and inquiring.


     What next?

     Finally, encourage engineering managers to reflect on their current practices, assess the ethical climate of their teams and organizations, and take proactive steps to enhance ethical decision-making capabilities.


    Arar, K., & Saiti, A. (2022). Ethical leadership, ethical dilemmas and decision making among school administrators. Equity in Education & Society, 1(1), 126–141.

    EMBOK. (2019). A guide to the Engineering Management Body of Knowledge (H. Shah & W. Nowocin, Eds.; 5th ed.).

    Savur, S., & Sandhu, S. (2017). Responsible Leadership and Ethical Decision-Making. Emerald Publishing Limited.

    About the Author

    Enas Aref is an Instructor and Doctoral Researcher at Department of Industrial & Entrepreneurial Engineering and Engineering Management at Western Michigan University

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content is made available to the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog posts are created voluntarily and are not sold, but may be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and therefore do not go through a peer-review process, and are not fact-checked. All errors belong to the creators.

  • 21 Feb 2024 10:31 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    by Phillip Power MEM, CPEM

    A Definite Problem

    Firms seem to put a lot of resources into problem solving methodologies without emphasizing the importance of a well defined problem. Without a good problem definition, you can have a set of problem solving skills even the most adept consultants would envy, but you may not be solving the right problem.

    Personal Experience

    To illustrate my point, I will use a case study from my own professional experience. While working for Large Company XYZ, we had an issue. Our product was not able to pass a specification, let’s say it was the concentration of a chemical used in medical applications. The concentration would consistently test over or under the given limits. The process to make this chemical was old (no!) and the equipment was validated over 20 years ago (was it still in the validated state, you bet!). The process controls were not reliable and the time it would take to complete each processing step changed batch to batch.

    I called a kaizen and amassed the subject matter experts of the plant. Immediately people began explaining what was causing the inconsistent concentration in the chemical. The operators assured the group that it was the raw materials, which had the supplier quality team on defense. The engineers were fairly confident it was the jacketed reactor, probably scaling or a leak. This had maintenance on defense. Maintenance assured the team that they perform their PMs dutifully and have the records to prove it. Action items are put on the board to look into the raw materials and perform a trend analysis on the certificate of analysis data and to inspect the jacketed reactor at the next product changeover. Oh, and by the way, that won’t be for a couple of weeks, and even then, do we really want to run the risk of upsetting the process more by taking things apart and putting them back together? We had better start a bidding process on a new reactor in the meantime and see what the lead time is on getting a new one on site; if the reactor is the problem, we can’t afford to lose time and put more product at risk. Ok team, break!

    What do you see here?

    Already you can see how a problem-solving exercise can run away; I’m sure you’ve all experienced something similar. It can be easy to let it happen when you sink into a routine and you’re familiar with your co-workers. The strict structure of a kaizen or 8D problem solving are fine but why waste the time when we already know what the problem is and are halfway to a solution? In this case, had the team put effort into properly defining the problem, all of this work could have been avoided. What was the problem? Was it that the concentration was inconsistent or was it that the product was failing to meet specifications? Maybe those are the same thing, maybe they aren’t. In this case, for the application of the chemical, the range of concentration that the product was experiencing did not pose a risk to the patient. In fact, the chemical was safe up to 20x the concentrations we were experiencing. So where did the specifications come from? When the product’s initial validation protocol was pulled from the dusty catacombs of Record Archives, we discovered that the specifications were set arbitrarily using data from the 3 process qualification runs.


    So now what does the solution look like? Work with quality on updating the specifications using a fresh risk assessment that documents
    the safety and efficacy of the chemical at these concentrations.
    Work through the change control process to implement the change and
    you’re done. Now, if you’re the fellow performing the risk assessment or managing the change control, you might not think this is the best solution. But from a company perspective, you aren’t using resources trending raw material data, you aren’t taking up maintenance’s time pulling apart the reactor, you aren’t wasting purchasing’s time with bidding, and the solution requires no capital, no validation, and no additional down time. Sounds like a win to me.

    About the Author

    Phillip Power MEM, CPEM is a Pharmaceutical Technical Specialist for Zoetis and a Lecturer for the University of Nebraska- Lincoln's MEM program. At Zoetis, Phillip manages investigations and CAPAs, operational improvement projects, and risk assessments to ensure the market has access to the highest quality medicines for companion animals and livestock. He earned his B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering and his M.E. in Engineering Management from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln.

    Phillip lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife and two sons.

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the  original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content made available for the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog post are created voluntarily and is not sold- but can be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and does not go through a peer-review process or fact check. All errors belong to the creators.

  • 21 Feb 2024 10:25 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    by Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM

    2024 Black History Month:  A Time for a Renewed Commitment to Advocacy and Activism

    A Call for the Activist Engineer

    In my 2023 Black History Month (BHM) blog, I celebrated the remarkable strides made by Black engineers who are not only challenging but actively dismantling "engineered oppression." These visionary individuals are not content with the status quo; they are forging new paths toward a future where technological innovation is synonymous with inclusivity, equity, and justice. However, as we mark this year's celebration, we cannot ignore the political challenges that threaten to derail our progress in realizing a positive technological future for all.

    From contentious court rulings to legislation banning DE/I concepts in higher education, the very principles we, ASEM, champion – diversity, equity, and inclusion – are being challenged, necessitating a renewed call to action. The opposition to DE/I initiatives, now fueled by corporate criticism, demands a strategic and united response.

    Enter Activist Engineering, as a countermeasure.  As outlined in Activist Engineering: Changing Engineering Practice by Deploying Praxis, this paradigm shift in engineering practice challenges the status quo by exposing the political and value-based nature of engineering. It emphasizes the importance of applying socioecological learning to technological design, urging engineers to broaden their perspectives and consider the broader impact of their work.

    Activist Engineering is more than just an approach to engineering; it's a mindset that demands self-reflection and introspection. Reflexivity lies at its is core.  Engineers are called upon to critically examine their motives and the consequences of their decisions and actions. By embracing moments of pause and introspection, engineers can cultivate a heightened awareness of their role in perpetuating systemic injustices and oppression, thereby paving the way for more holistic and just engineering and engineering management practices.

    As I emphasized in my December 2021 ASEM Blog, reflection is undervalued in engineering.  Creating space for introspection must be prioritized, recognizing that meaningful change begins with self-awareness and critical reflection. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us rededicate ourselves to the principles of DE/I, ensuring that engineering, as both a discipline and profession, is reflective and responsive to the full diversity of humanity. 

    Together, through continued activism and advocacy, we can chart a course towards a more equitable and socially responsible technological future. Let us commit to Activist Engineering, leveraging our collective voices to interrogate and dismantle barriers and construct a brighter engineering and engineering management future for all.

    About the Author

    As the inaugural director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE/I) for the American Society for Engineering Management (ASEM), Dr Woodrow serves as the executive director of The University of Texas at Austin Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE).  He is a Certified Professional Engineering Management Professional (CPEM) with over ten (10) years of technical program and project management experiences.  A proven thought leader in advocating for and advancing the development of more equitable, inclusive, and just approaches to technological innovation and management, Winchester was recently recognized by the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin for his contributions to equity in engineering. 

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the  original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content made available for the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog post are created voluntarily and is not sold- but can be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and does not go through a peer-review process or fact check. All errors belong to the creators.

  • 31 Jan 2024 9:31 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    by Kennedy, Donald, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM

    Managing Project Managers-  Part 1

    There are a lot of materials and even entire societies devoted to best practices around project management. However, there is less information for all the engineering managers who are responsible for managing these project managers. This article is aimed at helping the people who do not manage projects but manage the people who manage projects. This is the first installment of a summary of a presentation I gave somewhere that I recently found in a box while cleaning.

    In most organizations I have worked at (and there are a lot of these) there would be regular meetings where more senior managers would require their project managers to attend and provide ongoing status reports on their work. These meetings require the project managers to take their focus off the execution of the work in progress and devote resources to building stories to explain what has happened and why any deviations are not the result of some character flaw of the project manager. At one such meeting when I was being grilled, I rattled off many excuses and mentioned a river that had flooded in the area. The
    executives had great interest in this excuse, in particular because it had been on the news. I then said that they should not consider that event as important since its effect was minimal, but the answer I received was that it was a perfect reason to explain why my project was behind schedule. The purpose of the exercise was to build stories, whether they would help this or future projects was not a priority.

    If we think about creating value by our efforts, I cannot see how the above meetings can be the way to achieve optimal organizational performance. In the presentation I recently found, there was a list of actions that people who manage project managers can take to be better stewards of the resources under their control. I realize there are too many points to cover in a single post so I will provide these in serial form.

    Action 1: Learn how to best manage technical people.

    If you are not strong in managing people there is no way you will suddenly be good at managing the subset consisting of project managers. I will go out on a bit of a limb by saying the most common opinion by experts is that engineers do not get enough training early in their careers in subjects that create good managers. Papers presented at ASEM conferences in the 1990s suggest that one of the best first steps to being a good manager is to develop a desire to help people. Too many people in all fields go into management for the benefits that come with the higher pay, power, perks and prestige. As with many lists, if you fail to take the first step seriously, there is little point in going any further.

    Action 2: Give the project manager the maximum amount of trust and
    authority within your organization.

    At one company, the director would make their project managers apply for approvals for their projects in small steps. For example, an initial approval would be given to develop the design, perhaps $2 million. Then when the design was completed, there would be approvals required to procure long lead materials, say $4 million. Once the orders were placed, approvals were given for signing construction contacts, say $6 million. I hope you can see the inefficiency of dishing out approvals a bit at a time. Cancelling a project
    mid-execution almost always has a worse return on the dollar spent (zero) than spending the additional money required to complete it.

    Action 3: Trust the project managers

    If you do not trust your project managers the bad practice shown in Action 2 will be taken. If you cannot trust your project managers to complete a project, you better examine your selection process for who you assign these tasks. In one paper I presented at an ASEM
    conference, I showed from a sample of project managers that the final
    results of their completed projects over a few years suggested the outcomes were based mostly on luck, and not some talent each project manager had or lacked. This is very much supported by Deming’s statement that most performance evaluations are measuring the outcome of chance occurrences and are therefore a waste of effort. Since the
    world is complex, I also published an article showing how over 30 years, you might be able to see that one project manager was more skilled than another, but this comparison was very difficult to assess and these days it will be rare to find several project managers
    working at the same organization for any length of time. It is very common for materials devoted to project success to state that the project manager should have the authority to do the work. They know better than anyone what is needed and asking permission from people further removed is unlikely to add any value.

    More to follow on this...on this link for PART 2

     Dr. Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM is a long time contributor to the Practice Periodical and ASEM blog.

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the  original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content made available for the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog post are created voluntarily and is not sold- but can be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and does not go through a peer-review process or fact check. All errors belong to the creators.

  • 31 Jan 2024 9:12 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    by Ayman Fahmi Naser, MS in Eng Mngt, Senior Projects Manager

     Choosing By Advantages(CBA) for Engineering Managers

    Effective decisions are crucial as they dictate course of action that yields the intended outcomes. This is why the approach one employs when reaching decisions is significant.

     By utilizing Choosing By Advantages (CBA), engineering managers are able to focus on what is critical: the benefits (differences in value) that each alternative may offer to stakeholders, and making a determination according to the overall significance of those benefits. By emphasizing the benefits for the end user, CBA links decision makers with their clients' conceptualizations of what they desire. By involving constructors, buildability is taken into account.

    CBA is a framework and series of procedures devised by civil engineer Jim Suhr during his tenure at the US Forest Service. Its purpose is to empower individuals, organizations, and project teams to make decisions that are more efficient in nature.


    Why implement CBA?

    The primary objective of the CBA method is to assist decision makers in distinguishing between alternatives and comprehending the significance of those distinctions. CBA prevents double counting by basing decisions on the positive differences, or advantages, of alternatives rather than their disadvantages.

    CBA establishes an auditable, open, collaborative and transparent decision-making process for design and project works, recognizing the complexity of the client systems that commission the majority of projects. CBA is capable of integrating subjective and objective data into a unified decision-making procedure.

    Construction and design projects are becoming more intricate, rapid, and uncertain. Likewise, client systems are becoming more intricate. 'The client' is not a singular entity, but rather a dynamic and complex collection of individuals whose needs and expectations may fluctuate throughout the project's lifecycle. The presence of a transparent audit trail for decisions enables their reevaluation when required. A transparent delivery schedule enables all parties to comprehend the repercussions of modifying those decisions.

    Human beings often exhibit a tendency to avoid excessive choice. A tendency exists in design to jump to conclusions prior to exploring all plausible alternatives; this is a technique for preventing decision overload. CBA provides a methodical approach for all parties involved to oversee the decision-making process when confronted with a substantial quantity of alternatives. It guarantees that the number of alternatives considered in the intricate decisions surrounding design for the built environment is not unnecessarily restricted.

    What is CBA?

    CBA is a method for determining the significance of beneficial differences (i.e., benefits) among alternatives. It contains fundamental definitions, models, principles, and procedures. The key principles are:

    1. Decisions must be predicated on the relative significance of the advantageous distinctions among alternatives.

    2. Decisions ought to be grounded in pertinent factual evidence.

    3. Diverse categories of decisions necessitate distinct and effective approaches to decision making.

    4. It is imperative that decision makers acquire knowledge and effectively employ sound methodologies for decision making.

    As implied by principle 3, various approaches exist for various categories of decisions. These can vary in complexity from straightforward binary choices that have no impact on resources to numerous alternatives that each have their own set of resource implications. It is critical to distinguish resource requirements from other attributes, as the majority of stakeholders would be compelled to answer the question of what they would do with the resource if it were not being used in the decision under consideration. CBA evaluates the advantageous distinctions among non-resource attributes of alternatives prior to delving into resource considerations, thereby facilitating a clear exploration of potential trade-offs.

    CBA prevents the errors that occur with unreliable approaches like Kepner-Tregoe, selecting based on benefits and drawbacks, employing weighting rating and calculating (WRC) systems that incorporate criteria weighting, factor weighting, and cost-benefit analysis.

     How do we apply CBA?

    Simple procedures are simple to master and, once ingrained, effortless to implement. Facilitation is beneficial when dealing with more intricate decisions, such as those encountered in the fields of design and construction projects. Additionally, providing training and mentoring to all attendees is crucial to prevent the meeting from becoming bogged down in discussions regarding processes that are addressed during the training. John Koga, Director of Process and Supply Chain Improvement at construction joint venture HerreroBoldt, remarked, "Without mentoring, very few individuals utilize CBA correctly. They revert to hazardous and improper practices that are no longer part of the CBA”.

    CBA procedure is comprised of five guiding phases for all parties involved:

    I.               Establishing the Stage: Determining the Issues at Hand, Specifying the Criteria for the Determination, and Determining the Audience.

    II.              Innovation stage: consists of distinguishing between alternatives in a visible and tangible manner.

    III.            Decision-making process: consists of enumerating the benefits of each alternative, determining the significance of each benefit, and selecting the alternative with the greatest number of benefits prior to evaluating the resource implications of the alternatives and formulating the preliminary decision.

    IV.            Reconsideration stage: entails scrutinizing the preliminary decision to ascertain its alignment with the intended objective, revising it as necessary, and subsequently finalizing the choice.

    V.             Implementation stage: entails carrying out the actions required to bring the decision to fruition.

    How does Choosing By Advantages help engineering managers decide?

    The Choosing By Advantages (CBA) tool is a framework for engineering managers' decision-making that has the potential to improve the process in numerous ways. CBA is a structured and methodical approach that assists decision-makers in comparing the merits of various alternatives. The utilization of the CBA tool improves engineering managers' decision-making process through the implementation of a methodical and transparent framework, stakeholder engagement, risk assessment, resource optimization, and encouragement of data-driven decision making. This may facilitate more effective and well-informed decision-making in the dynamic and complex field of engineering.

    BLOG DISCLAIMER: The opinions, views and content presented in this online blog solely represent the  original creator and has no association with ASEM activities, products or services. The content made available for the community for educational and informational purposes only. All blog post are created voluntarily and is not sold- but can be used, shared and distributed free of charge. The blogs are not academic pieces, and does not go through a peer-review process or fact check. All errors belong to the creators.


  • 14 Nov 2023 10:33 AM | Ali Kucukozyigit (Administrator)

    by Dr. Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM

    Scope Management is a big part of project management success. A few decades ago, I went around trying to make money giving Tom Peters style presentations to big companies but charging around 1% of what Tom charges. I was able to get a few nibbles. One presentation I gave was called Don’s Rules of Thumb for Project Management Success. I could probably still find the material but I do remember one of the rules: Let Future Projects Pay Future Project Costs.

    There is a lot of pressure when running a sizable project for various stakeholders to come forward with scope change requests for things they cannot currently get approved. There is often a fallacy they propose that says that since you are there anyway, it would not cost much to add this thing or dig this hole. The ideas often make sense from any sort of payback calculation but in my experience more often than not, unintended consequences show the extra work was basically a mistake. I know a few project managers who were grilled for exceeding the original budget even when they had all the proper paper work completed to add the scope to their job. The original budget is often fixed in the minds of the observers.

    Scope Change Examples

    Here are a few examples to illustrate this.

    A) In one case, a Project Manager was doing some piping installation in a new building. A stakeholder came along and said there was a potential plan to change the use that would require installing some rather large valves where the main pipes entered and exited the building. The Project Manager (PM) spent a few $100,000 to extend the building to accommodate the proposed future valves. The PM was fired a short time later. A few years pass and the PM met the same stakeholder in a social setting. The PM asked about the piping change. The stakeholder was a bit annoyed and said that they had to spend a lot of money modifying the piping outside the building to accommodate the new valves. The former PM explained how there was room inside to complete the planned work, but since he was not there, the extra work was done. In this case the money was spent for the future work and was wasted.

    B) In another case when I was the PM, another stakeholder wanted me to spend a few million dollars to install some infrastructure to test the facility after 5 years of use. Since 5 years is longer than I ever worked anywhere, I decided to put in some connections to allow the infrastructure to be connected in 5 years time and saved the few million dollars. After I had been fired, I went back in 5 years just to ask the stakeholder about the proposed infrastructure. He stated that the advances in electronic equipment had been unforeseen and if we had spent the millions, it would have been obsolete for what they wanted.

    Of course, there will always be exceptions to a rule of thumb. But in general, this one has served me well.

    About the Author

    Dr. Donald Kennedy, Ph.D., P.Eng., IntPE, CPEM, FASEM is a regular contributor to the ASEM Practice Periodical. He has celebrated a lengthy career in heavy industrial operations and construction.

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