Big Projects and Red Tape

It’s no secret: working on a large project full of smart engineers can sometimes leave you wondering how anything gets done, EVER!

Engineers are good at generating lots of good ideas on how to improve how things work. On big projects, you find some truly gifted engineers, but they can’t always effect change. They can’t always make things better.

Project managers and project stakeholders understand that creative and experienced engineers on their team can make for great allies in delivering simpler solutions that cut through the complexity. However, this rarely happens and I’ve always wondered why.

Big projects come with big financial risks. They need to stay on track.  So a sense exists that previous project designs and ways of doing things can’t be questioned.

Responsibility for key technical decisions can often be taken out of the hands of the best technical people on the project… Leaving them with a lack of skin in the game.

The financial modelling that most projects go through can make evaluating ideas extremely difficult for engineers, so they often assume that any deviation from the current way of doing things will produce negative value.

AND

In managing the volume and complexity of work on a large capital project, the notion of creating value is often lost in the whirlwind of activity to complete engineering deliverables.

I think the take away is that we need to look at capital project systems and start by trusting engineers to make decisions. Simplify goals. Executives need to commit to doing it right. Give qualified engineers on your team true responsibility and hold them truly accountable.

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Paul O'Sullivan

Paul is an automation engineer and founder/owner at Skellig, an engineering company providing automation, process, instrumentation, and project solutions in the biotech & pharmaceutical Industries. Paul, with his team, is building Skellig to be more real, more personal, and more human.