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Engineering Efficiency in a Subdued Industry

Engineering Efficiency in a Subdued Industry

Feb 2016

With signs pointing to another year of subdued growth [1][2], what do we do? We must innovate! Why? Because it’s the most fashionable buzz word at present, that’s why!

Innovation within our sector often focuses upon ‘engineering solutions’. This is what we are good at, what we are comfortable doing. We love solving problems and designing things. It’s natural to us.

But can I suggest that we use this slow growth period to innovate our bureaucracy; Approvals, Safety and Project Procedures.

This bureaucracy is slowly suffocating our industry. However, most of the key ideas and issues behind our approvals, safety and project procedures are excellent. Yet our bureaucracy is full of contradictions and we seem to have arrived at a place where the risk/reward ratio is out of balance.

One example of this is that many of our engineering companies pride themselves in having the best staff. They have outstanding human resource processes to recruit the best people. But once these outstanding people are on the job, we impose safety and project procedures upon them like they were born yesterday and that they have no ability to complete the job they were recruited to do.

But how do we innovate within this bureaucratic environment? Let’s look at two current examples of industries that have also been suffocated by bureaucracy; taxis & cricket.

Uber. They have disrupted and turned the highly regulated taxi industry on its head. How? Uber cleared their minds and looked at the core service of the taxi industry – driving people from A to B. They then asked the question, if we had a blank canvass how can we provide this core service for people today and into the future?

The result has been the development of a system that focused on engaging highly motivate people (with cars) and providing them a method to easily provide their own personalised taxi service. It also appears they have bypassed all the existing regulations.

Two questions arise from this example. Do we clearly understand our core engineering services? If so, and starting with a blank canvass, how can we deliver them to our clients today and into the future?

The game of cricket has a long and rich history. It is full of wonderful traditions. Yet, crowd numbers were declining, until the advent of the T20 format. T20 is basically the same game, yet each team only has 20 overs to score as many runs as possible. This means that the game is completed within 3 hours, rather than 8 hours (50 overs) or 5 days (test matches).

The traditional approach focused upon good ‘cricket shots’, elegant and fluid strikes – the way the games was meant to be played. However, the new format has changed how batsman approach batting. They now focus upon identifying a gap between the fielders and use any method of shot to get the ball into the gap, thus maximising the number of runs for the team. This new ‘T20’ approach has started to filter into 50 over and test matches formats. We are seeing more runs score than ever before.

The key lesson from this example is for us to consider ‘reformatting’ our projects to let new effective work methods grow and develop.

We need to use this subdued growth to help sharpen our focus and let the lessons of taxis and cricket fuel our innovation.

Finally, as new innovations do emerge we will need brave engineers. Brave engineers to lead, to advocate and to bring the change our industry needs.

At Joseph Consulting we are passionate about empowering leaders who desire to innovate and implement their iniatives. Please call Joseph Consulting if you would like to discuss how we can assist you innovate and implement.


Jason Gallagher, MIEAust, BECivil
Director – Joseph Consulting


Jason Gallagher is the Deputy Chair, College of Leadership and Management, Queensland. This article idea was sparked from his discussions and participation within the committee meetings.

The College of Leadership and Management (CLM) aims to promote and support engineers as leaders. The Queensland chapter committee is based in Brisbane, and welcomes engagement from Engineers Australia members throughout Queensland. www.engineersaustralia.org.au/college-leadership-and-management

[1] Reserve Bank of Australia. Feb 2016. Statement on Monetary Policy, Reserve Bank of Australia, Australia.
[2] Engineers Australia. Jan 2016. State of the Engineering Profession 2016; Engineering in Australia. Engineers Australia, Australia.

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