Why I was wrong about engineers

07 Nov
November 7, 2014

Way back in May 2013 I wrote about “Why engineers should be running L&D’. It seems I was wrong – very wrong – and I’m here to put the record straight.

Earlier story

In my earlier post I wrote that:

“Engineering is a discipline that’s based upon fact and analysis and the clear application of both in order to solve known and agreed problems.

Working closely with engineers for many years has taught me the value of their rigorous training and education.  For example:

  • The absolute clarity they have about the problem they’re trying to address.  If they don’t have clarity then they search for it.  They will not work on something they do not understand.
  • They apply a rigour and analysis to understanding problems.  They understand that the presenting problem – what you initially see – is rarely the root cause of the problem.
  • They apply problem solving techniques in a systematic manner.  They use stream analysis – amongst other techniques – to ensure that the right issues are tackled first.
  • They take a holistic view of the world.  They realise that the problem they are working on can affect other parts of the business.
  • They are total professionals – they do not second-guess in areas that are not their own speciality and they recognise and readily use experts to solve problems.
  • They understand the value of optioneering – exploring a range of solutions – and they value the skills of planning and project management.
  • They are high challenge – they do not accept something just because it is new; they demand proof.”

Why I was wrong

I was wrong to assume that engineers could be good at running L&D because that’s just not true.  According to Harvard Business Review, engineers are great for running any company – and that’s a fact!

According to the November 2014 edition of Harvard Business Review, 24% of the top 100 best performing CEOs have an engineering degree – compared with 29% who have an MBA.

According to HBR, “Engineering is about what works, and it breeds in you an ethos of building things that work – whether it’s a machine or a structure or an organisation.  Engineering also teaches you to try and do things efficiently and eloquently, with reliable outcomes, and with a margin of safety.  It makes you think about costs versus performance.  These are principles that can be deeply important when you think about organisations.”


So perhaps – yet again – we should look to engineering as a discipline on which to model ourselves.  The knowledge, discipline and rigour are clearly breeding grounds for success.

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