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Engineers as Employees and Managers-2

Observation on the loss of the Challenger Critical and Uncritical Loyalty Responsible Organizational Disobedience

Observation on the loss of the Challenger

On the loss of the


 Engineering processes (the decision-making process to arrive at the launch decision) need continuous review.  Learn to recognize when external pressures or conflicting interests (profits, prestige,…) cause deviations from good engineering practice.

 Be wary of incrementally increasing risks by normalization of deviance.  Learn to differentiate between Primary Engineering Decisions (PED) and Primary Management Decisions (PMD) . and be especially cautious in the operation of. tightly coupled and complexly interactive engineering systems.Challenger. cont’d.  Learn to recognize...

and the anomaly was considered an “acceptable risk”  1981 launch resulted in blow-by through the putty  this anomaly was explained as a result of improperly applied putty  1984 and 1985 launches caused more leakage  leakage had come to be expected .Normalization of Deviance  1977 tests indicated some joint opening. contrary to joint designers’ expectations  a sealing putty “fix” was added.

 Every instance of gas blow-by was contrary to the initial seal designers’ expectations and. they probably would have not accepted any leakage. almost expected. not a redesign.  Deviations from initially expected behavior should always be reexamined very carefully. yet came to be acceptable. A “fix”. was always the remedy.Normalization of Deviance  If the initial seal designers were asked whether any leakage through the seal was acceptable. .

Tightly coupled & complexly interactive systems  Processes are said to be tightly coupled when one process can rapidly affect another process.  Risk is more difficult to estimate in tightly coupled and complexly interactive processes.  The solid booster seals and the shuttle fuel storage/delivery system are an example of a tightly coupled and complexly interactive system.  Processes are said to be complexly interactive when they interact in unanticipated ways. .

The effects of low ambient temperature  The low ambient temperature was a concern during launch review  The critical interaction between low temperature and seal behavior was not foreseen (tightly coupled and complexly interactive)  Launch was approved in spite of the concerns because no data existed to confirm a hazard. (No data existed to confirm the safety--review the purpose of the pre-launch engineering process!) .

Critical loyalty vs. Uncritical loyalty .

or harmful to others (employees or public).  Critical loyalty implies that an employee has a right (and responsibility) to (internally) criticize actions by the employer when there is a sincere belief that the action is detrimental to the interests of the employer. .Critical loyalty  True loyalty (by an employee to an employer) should include “critical” loyalty.

Critical loyalty  Unfortunately. sometimes critical loyalty is interpreted as disloyalty. and results in disciplinary action  This is not conducive to an environment where future critical loyalty is welcomed .

7) . et al.  (see good arguments against uncritical loyalty in Harris. sec.Uncritical loyalty  Uncritical (blind) loyalty is sometimes expected by employers. 8.  Uncritical loyalty implies that the employee supports (actively or passively) all actions by the employer.

Organizational Disobedience .

Organizational Disobedience  Disobedience by contrary action  A Ford engineer who lobbies (as an individual) in favor of EPA fuel efficiency regulations which Ford opposes on a corporate level  Disobedience by nonparticipation  Refusing to carry out an assignment because of moral or professional objection  Disobedience by protest  Joining a public protest against your employer (internal or external) .

Whistle blowing--a form of disobedience by protest  Some justifications for whistle blowing are…  the harm to the public is serious  reports to supervisors are ignored .

E. P. .Professional Employee Rights and the case of Ed Turner.

P.E. and the City of Idaho Falls  An illustration of the practicalities of protecting professional employee rights .Ed Turner.

P.Ed Turner..E.LS) Consultants (PE) Engineering Assistants (non engineers) Engineering Office Staff (non engineers) . Public Works Director (non engineer) City Engineer (PE. until a new Public Works Director restructured the department.. was the City Engineer of Idaho Falls.

Public Works Director (non engineer) Engineering Administrator (non engineer) Consultants (PE) Engineering Assistants (non engineer) Engineering Office Staff (non engineer) City Engineer (PE.The engineering staff reported directly to an “Engineering Administrator”--thus the City Engineer was not in responsible charge of work done by the staff. LS) .

. ..  Subsequent ramifications included.  Turner’s responsibilities and authority were reduced further  His office was moved and his pay was reduced  He was advised he would not advance  Two lawsuits later..Turner refused to seal plans developed by staff not under his supervision... he won some compensation for his legal fees..

Responsibilities of Engineers as Managers .

to self.) .. .. to profession.Responsibilities of Engineers as Managers  To employer/client  To subordinates  Managers also have some responsibilities as engineers (to public.

not details--don’t micromanage  Prioritize projects--keep all projects on workable timelines  Watch finances--keep accurate records of expenditures in time and money by project  Reporting--provide timely reporting to employer or client ..  Manage projects..Responsibilities of Engineer Managers--To Employer/Client  Project oriented.

maintain “workerfriendly” work environment  Keep abreast of legal and regulatory constraints ...Responsibilities of Engineer Managers--To Employer/Client  People oriented.  Manage personnel matters-prompt and fair rewards and discipline.

encourage continuing education. facilitate mentoring opportunities.Responsibilities of Engineer Managers--To Subordinates  Provide challenges.  Provide growth opportunities--assign projects with regard for the need of young engineers to gain diverse experience. encourage participation in professional organizations. but make sure that systems for appropriate design reviews and checks are in place and working. . delegate responsibilities.

set and expect high standards.  Get to know subordinates and their families. .  encourage quality relationships between subordinates and families.Responsibilities of Engineer Managers--To Subordinates  Emphasize importance of professional careful not to overload people with too much required overtime.

. maintain “worker-friendly” work environment (same as manager’s responsibility to the employer!)  Provide frequent positive feedback and encouragement. When negative feedback is needed.Responsibilities of Engineer Managers--To Subordinates  Manage personnel matters--prompt and fair rewards and discipline. offer it in private.

 Keep in mind an overview of the “processes” used in your office to produce engineering products. strive for continuous improvement.  Try to hire people who are “smarter than you” (T. an appreciative word of thanks and encouragement is useful..Some other thoughts for engineer managers. J.  When tangible rewards (raises) are not possible. .. Hirsch).

 Reward “critical loyalty” to employer.  Encourage and facilitate communication about employee concerns. ..Some other thoughts for engineer managers..  Keep good written records of personnel issues. it doesn’t have to be that way.  Jackall describes the relationship between engineers and managers as fundamentally controversial.

Some other thoughts for engineer managers.  Jackall suggests that the successful manager is “…the team player..” . the person who can accept a challenge and get the job done in a way that reflects favorably upon himself and others..