Everyone makes mistakes, but not everyone actually learns from them. Some errors can be explained away as a special or random circumstance, but the overwhelming majority can be traced back to a person’s actions or inactions. That’s why successful and motivated engineers never hesitate to reflect on and scrutinize their work at the end of each project. This process offers practical insight that paves the way for meaningful procedural and technical improvements for future endeavors.
If you want to improve your processes, here are five things every engineer should be asking at the end of every project.
1. Do the Results Satisfy the Stated Objectives?
Aesthetics, efficiency and timeliness are all vital factors in any engineering project, but they are all secondary compared to actually achieving the primary objective. After every project, engineers and project managers should always ask themselves if their results satisfy the initial objectives. It’s natural for the goals of your project to change due to compromises and developments throughout the design and implementation process. Ultimately, engineers need to know if their work really offered an effective solution to the client’s initial problem or goal.
2. How Did I Spend My Time?
Time is a valuable resource for engineers, so it’s only natural to keep careful track of how it’s spent on every project. All team members should have access to a time tracking utility, usually in the form of specialized software, so they can conveniently and accurately log their activities. Engineers should be able to gauge total time investment on a project as well as time spent on individual steps or processes. This simple tactic can cut down on time waste, leading to faster progress and lower costs.
3. Did All Team Members Collaborate and Contribute?
It’s difficult to properly evaluate every team member’s performance in the “heat of the battle.” Once the project is complete, however, it’s time to step back and consider how each person contributed to the work. There are many criteria to think about, including responsiveness, ability to communicate, flexibility and individual performance. Every team member impacts all the others, so managers and leaders of engineering teams should always think about their team cohesion and compatibility.
4. Were My Expectations Accurate or Misguided?
Even experienced engineers can’t anticipate every possibility or contingency. Compromise and adjustment of expectations are a natural, and often painful, part of the process. You can’t always make accurate assessments and assumptions, but it’s still a good idea to think about inaccurate expectations. Follow-up questions could include “Why did I expect this outcome?” or “What factors did I fail to anticipate, and why?”
5. What One Decision Would I Change if I Could?
Even modest engineering projects can involve hundreds of different decisions made by clients, engineers and project managers. There are dozens of things that could have been done differently, which makes it hard to actually pick out individual errors to focus on. A broad perspective is useful and necessary when reflecting on the results of a project, but it can also be overwhelming. Focusing on a single costly or ineffective decision allows you to scrutinize all of the factors that influenced that particular choice and the resulting consequences.
Make Progress with PES
The professional team at Practical Engineering Solutions (PES) is held to a high standard of excellence on every project. Our emphasis on responsiveness, rigorous quality control and deliveries isn’t just words, it’s our culture and character. Our clients in the energy, marine and industrial sectors work with us to achieve their vision, improve operations and address challenges with a time-tested combination of creativity and technical expertise. Ready to work with an engineering firm that’s dedicated to your project? Reach out to us and let’s talk.