Being good and done

About ten years ago, I had an engineer working for me who had come out of the aerospace industry. He was careful, complete, and thoughtful, but missed every deadline ever given to him. Fred (not his real name, of course) had developed an amazing ability to turn even the simplest project into a never-ending stream of revisions, changes, and upgrades.

05/01/2007


About ten years ago, I had an engineer working for me who had come out of the aerospace industry. He was careful, complete, and thoughtful, but missed every deadline ever given to him. Fred (not his real name, of course) had developed an amazing ability to turn even the simplest project into a never-ending stream of revisions, changes, and upgrades. He was the quintessential continuous engineer, working long hours, but not accomplishing very much. Constantly under stress, he eventually resigned, citing health issues.

Scope and schedule

Like any good engineer, Fred could see in a nearly-complete project a better way to do it—so he’d go back to the beginning and rework the entire project. Or, he’d run into an issue with a design, and instead of developing a work-around, he’d pitch the design and start over. He never seemed to understand the value of scope and schedule.

Successful project execution, interestingly, is defined as delivering the defined scope within schedule. Please note there isn’t any reference to delivering perfection—yet many engineers burn precious hours tweaking a design to make it just a little better and miss the deadline!

Another variation on tweaking is when the job is up and running (effectively delivered) yet the engineer feels compelled to “improve” it simply because there’s time left in the schedule. Those are burned hours, folks—hours that could have been spent getting a new job underway.

Avoid these pitfalls

Here are suggestions to avoid these pitfalls:

  1. Understand the requirements of the project clearly. While scoping the project, repeat, in your own words, what the client is asking for. This feedback loop ensures you and the client understand what’s needed. Often you think you understand what’s needed, but by repeating the requirements, you find that the client wanted something else altogether.

  2. Verbalize the scope to team members or peers. Believe it or not, if you can’t explain the project in short, simple, clearly understood sentences to another person, there’s a good chance you’re unclear on what needs to be done. Taking the time to think through an explanation will allow the project to coalesce in your mind. It has to!

  3. Commit to an end date. One of Fred’s biggest shortcomings was he’d never commit to completing a project. When pressed, he’d respond by saying he would try to meet the schedule, never agreeing to, and thus never meeting the date. By committing to an end date, you 'own’ it and are compelled to meet the deadline.

 

  • Know when to stop

Here’s a little bit of engineering heresy: a successful project does not have to be perfect. It just needs to meet the scope requirements! The 80/20 rule applies here, as oftentimes engineers spend 80% of their time perfecting an incomplete project instead of focusing on delivering a 'good’ project within the schedule. Don’t get mired in minutia. You have a schedule to meet! Continually ask the questions: Does this meet the criteria? Is this good enough? If it is: STOP! The task is complete.

Now some of you may think this approach shortchanges the client because the solution may be less than perfect. Not true! I’ve yet to encounter a client who was happy with a schedule overrun on the 'perfect’ project. Nor have I met a client who refused to accept a project delivered on schedule which met the criteria. If anything, schedule overruns due to the relentless pursuit of perfection increase the client’s expectation of the deliverable. Something taking this long has to be good, right? No! It is far better to be good and done!


Author Information
Chuck Sherman is managing director and division vice president of the Detroit office of The Benham Companies LLC. He has more than 20 years of industry-related experience and is particularly passionate about all thing automotive. Contact him at Chuck.Sherman@benham.com .




The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by Control Engineering subscribers. Vote now (if qualified)!
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
HMI effectiveness; Distributed I/O; Engineers' Choice Award finalists; System Integrator advice; Inside Machines
Women in engineering; Engineering Leaders Under 40; PID benefits and drawbacks; Ladder logic; Cloud computing
Robotic integration and cloud connections; SCADA and cybersecurity; Motor efficiency standards; Open- and closed-loop control; Augmented reality
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) represent the logic (decision) part of the control loop of sense, decide, and actuate. As we know, PLCs aren’t the only option for making decisions in a control loop, but they are likely why you’re here.
This digital report explains how motion control advances and solutions can help with machine control, automated control on assembly lines, integration of robotics and automation, and machine safety.
This article collection contains several articles on how advancements in vision system designs, computing power, algorithms, optics, and communications are making machine vision more cost effective than ever before.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
Cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Jose S. Vasquez, Jr.
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me