HOW WELL DO YOU, AS AN ENGINEER,COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS AND ASSOCIATES TO ACHIEVE THE END RESULT: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT?
Cross-training, as defined by Wikipedia which also is called conditioning, refers to “training in different ways to improve overall performance. It takes advantage of the particular effectiveness of each training method, while at the same time attempting to neglect the shortcomings of that method by combining it with other methods that address its weakness. “
OK, even I admit that’s a mouthful that I don’t quite grasp. Do your sales, marketing and management colleagues feel the same way after attending a meeting in which you provided project engineering feedback?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you look forward to meetings or dread them, and why?
- Do you find that timelines established for your deliverables at these meetings are too short?
- Do you keep project output at a higher level than what is called for by your sales, marketing and management colleagues?
- Do you understand the stage of decision making that is involved, and when to shift gears from high level thinking to providing several tactical solutions?
If your non engineering colleagues don’t “get it,” how can you, as an engineer, communicate the opportunities each engineering approach offers to their meeting business development goals? One “aha moment” opportunity.
If your non engineering colleagues are short-sighted when developing a project, how can you, as a project engineer, walk them through the talk they should be incorporating in sales discussions with prospective customers? Another “aha moment” opportunity.
If you dread going to meetings because, as an engineer, you feel that your non engineering colleagues are not communicating effectively with you, open the channels of communication by crossing over to their side of the table.Check out my May 2, 2009 post, “There are no discrete problems for people with an eagle’s eye view.” It’s cross training. There is no black-and-white in collaboration. No silo-ed initiatives. Go for the “aha – gee I didn’t know you could do that!” discussion.
If you feel that the timelines established on decision making are rushed, resulting in less-than-gold plated solutions, discuss your hesitation with your colleagues in sales, marketing and management. Communicate. They may have information they can offer you that fills in the gaps on both sides of the table. Sales, marketing and management are all about making the best informed decisions. Engineers sometimes second guess not only this type of decision making, but engineering decision making itself.I feel another “aha moment” here.
If you hesitate moving from high-level engineering approaches to tactical engineering solutions, ask yourself why. Are you confident in your ability and that of your colleagues? Are there gaps in your abilities that need to be addressed and corrected? Then take a cross-functional, cross-training approach and create a stronger team for yourself and your company. Everyone benefits. Another “aha opportunity.”
If you do not understand the business and decision making stage that is under discussion at these meetings, ask yourself why you are missing the boat. Once you can appreciate and incorporate the perspectives of those seated around the table, you brand yourself as an asset to the team. Once you take down the walls of communication, it’s amazing how much information you find yourself privy to. Especially when it’s been there all along. Sometimes we don’t see or hear what is being shown or said because we are not communicating from a position of confidence. Another “aha moment” for you, your personal brand and your career development.
You cannot be all things to all people. And here’s an “aha moment” for you: you don’t have to be. Your colleagues don’t expect you to be.
As an engineer, you don’t have all perfect answers to all things. By keeping projects at a high level long after they need to be, you impede forward progress of the project team and of the company in this most challenging of economies. As one of my illustrious marketing colleagues told me many years ago, “Don’t tell me that I can’t do this and then just stop there. Tell me WHY I can’t do this and WHAT I need to do instead and then LEAD the way. We need your help.”
Cross training principles when applied to cross functional work teams really do work. Let down your guard and give it a try. Have the confidence to LEAD THE WAY.