Posts tagged ‘civil engineering blog’

Get Rid of Performance Reviews?

Guest Blogger:  Larry Courtney

Owner, Larry Courtney Consulting

Management Consulting and Business Brokerage for Professional Services Firms and other    Businesses

http://www.linkedin.com/in/larrycourtney

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about performance reviews by Samuel A. Culbert.  The article was adapted from “Get Rid of the Performance Review! How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing — and Focus on What Really Matters.”*  Essentially the article makes the point that formal performance reviews, based on a recurring periodic calendar date, do not work, they are disliked by employees, and could even be detrimental from a legal perspective, especially when managers tend to provide inflated ratings.  Instead the article maintains, managers should be providing nearly daily feedback to employees on their performance.

I share the views of Mr. Culbert on formal “performance” reviews.  They just do not work.  For the vast majority of managers they are a quarterly, semi-annual or annual check off of a required task that is performed with the enthusiasm and grace  mustered for the attendance of a  public hanging.  The “performance” review is anything but.  Senior management touts that promotions, raises and bonuses (if they are still paid) are tied to performance reviews … not so and everyone knows it from the most senior to the most junior person in the firm.  Performance reviews are the “Kings new clothes.”  We all know they do not work, but we pretend they do.  Anyway, how can you neatly condense the performance of an employee down to a 2 or 3 page check sheet and a 15 minute discussion?  Well, maybe the question would better be stated, how can you realistically do it and expect to have the molding impact a performance review should have?  I have had numerous encounters where a manager wanted to fire a person; however, when the personnel file was reviewed, it was found that the same manager had rated the employee as average or above average during previous performance reviews.  When confronted with the dichotomy, the manager would say something to the effect: “I wanted to encourage them, so I gave them a good review.”  I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard that.  Loosely translated what the manager is really saying is: “I don’t have the guts or I don’t have the basic interpersonal skills to be honest and forthright with the employee.”  Harsh? Not really.

The fact of the matter is, every employee deserves constant feedback, positive and negative (and both apply to every person), throughout the year and almost daily.  That feedback must be direct (not necessarily harsh … screaming and shouting is not what we are going for here), the feedback must be specific to the current task and relevant to the overall performance of the task or team.  For example, an employee who is consistently late may perform better than his/her peers; however, the tardiness is likely a distraction and point of irritation to fellow team members or employees.  Just for the record, “House” is a television show, not reality.  How can a person improve and attain his/her life and career objectives if they do not hear from others, especially their supervisors and managers, what is perceived to be the positive and negative elements about their performance.  I use the word perceived because it does not matter whether other people’s views are real or not, it is what they see and it is the responsibility of the one being perceived to change how others see them.  Life’s not always fair.  Wow, sounds like politics doesn’t it?  But I go too far.  Have you ever noticed how good leaders provide frequent feedback?  Since this tome is an expression of opinions, it is my opinion that being able to provide feedback to staff at the time it is needed and in the proper format to be accepted by the intended recipient, is an important element of leadership.  Performance feedback should help mold and shape staff into what they should be and what they want to be.

*Copyright 2010. By Samuel A. Culbert with Lawrence Rout. Published by Business Plus, an imprint of Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.  The article was published in the Wall Street Journal on April 19, 2010

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April 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm 5 comments

Civil Engineering “…The future is not what it used to be!”

By Carol Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

“The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.”  Paul Valery

Forty years ago civil engineers were concerned with issues surrounding pollution to air, water and the environment, traffic congestion, nuclear power, energy, global warming and oil shortages. Today those issues still exist while additional issues of water shortages, deforestation,  ocean acidification, infrastructure collapses and sustainable design strategies (to name a few) confront the industry daily.

Rear Admiral Bill Rowley offered an excellent presentation at the Air University. In 1995 he wrote:

When I was growing up in the 1950’s we all knew what the 1990’s would be like. It would be a time of great prosperity. We would live in big homes in the suburbs. There would be many labor-saving conveniences for the homemaker, and robots would do the hard chores. We would commute to work in our own helicopters. The short workweek would mean lots of leisure time that families (mom, dad and the two kids) would enjoy as “quality time” together. Space travel would be common with people living on other planets. Everyone would be happy living a fulfilling life in a peaceful world. Things sure did not turn out that way. In some cases we could not have predicted the full effects of new technology. Robots are not running around the house, but instead, we have computer chips in our toasters. Our dreams in some cases would have become nightmares. Can you imagine five hundred thousand people commuting to work in Washington in their own helicopters? We were very naive about the ways of economics and human nature. The future is not what it used to be!

How does this relate to civil engineering? In the past years the civil engineering industry charged forward planning, designing, upgrading and building. The money existed for future projects. Civil engineers thought of bigger buildings, more complex bridges and interchanges, smart highways, fast rail, upgrades to existing water treatment plants, smart grids to run our power. There was/is a market in need and excitement about the advances in technology and materials to redesign our world. We have the desire, need and the ability to create.  With so many talented engineers unemployed and so many young engineers unable to find their first jobs are we missing out on the next great civil engineer of this century? When will we see the funds to get on track?

Right now, the future is not what it used to be! What do you think?

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April 14, 2010 at 8:14 am 2 comments

The National Infrastructure Bank

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and

Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Press releases reported last month that a “broad coalition of members of Congress, experts and stakeholders called on Congress and the Obama Administration to create a National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) to help generate the investment needed for infrastructure projects of regional and national importance.” Similar to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the NIB would be set up  as an independent entity with a board of directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Specifically, the NIB would leverage private dollars to invest in and help improve the nation’s infrastructure, internet, smart grid, broadband, and schools. “The amount of federal investment would be determined on a sliding scale based on the type of infrastructure, location, project cost, current and projected usage, non-federal revenue, promotion of economic growth and community development, reduction in congestion, environmental benefits, and land-use policies that promote smart growth.” ACEC, ASCE, AWWA, ARBTA and a multitude of other organizations and political entities endorse this important legislation.

Leaders of “Building America’s Future”  in their letter to President Obama commended him for his efforts and wrote in part:

“We write to ask for your continued leadership on the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank, which will help rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, including our transportation, water and wastewater, broadband, power grid and other critical assets. As you know, the American Society of Civil Engineers identified more than $2.2 trillion in outstanding infrastructure needs. We cannot improve our infrastructure through the annual appropriations process alone.

We must renew our commitment to a National Infrastructure Bank that can help leverage public and private dollars, address regional and national needs and spur a rebirth in how our country invests in infrastructure. Building America’s Future, along with many other organizations, has educated the public about the outstanding needs throughout our country. Cities and states are struggling to find enough resources on their own.”

Critics are pontificating on the reasons why this will not work. One of their concern centers on the shortfall of the initial investment.  Their thought is that we can’t find enough money to fully fund a trillion dollar need, so why fund with a “paltry” $60 billion?  Secondly, critics are hung up on the term “bank.” Banks need to lend money and generate revenue, and therefore make investments that repay themselves. Since all infrastructure projects will not return large financial investment, then critics want the bank funding investment portfolio modified. Finally, the critics regard any federal organization as ineffective.

We cannot afford another eight years of inactivity and political battles.

These infrastructure repairs are desperately needed. This is our industry’s future and we support this initiative.

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February 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm Leave a comment

“Engineering Stress”

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

In this BLOG, engineering stress does not refer to a “measure of the intensity or internal distribution of the total internal forces acting within a deformable body across imaginary surfaces.” Here I am referring to the physiological demand many of us are experiencing in response to the ever changing  engineering marketplace.

My colleagues and I were on a conference call about our recruiting assignments and the conversation went off onto a tangent.  Those minutes that we talked about something other than our projects had me laughing and I felt stress melting away. I was much more productive for the hours following that call.

This started me thinking, how can the civil engineering community pull together and destress, if only for a while? I ran an Internet search and found over 28,000 results for 2009, ASCE and golf!  Seems each ASCE chapter has some sort of annual golf charity. A great stress reliever and way to enjoy networking. Other association dinner meetings, luncheon seminars on topics other than work and corporate sponsored volunteer events provide avenues to spend time with colleagues in a non stress environment.

Social networking sites, like LinkedIn and FACEBOOK have also provided an opportunity for many of us to take a break, decompress and correspond (quickly) with our colleagues in a non-stressful environment.

Do you have other ideas or suggestions? Please tell us!

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

January 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm 7 comments

World’s Tallest Building Opens -How Tall Is Too Tall?

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

The Burj Dubai – Arabic for Dubai Tower – opens today, January 4, at a supposed height of 2,717 feet. Construction began on September 21, 2004, with the exterior of the structure completed on October 1, 2009.

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, LLP (Chicago) are listed as the architect and engineer of record. Bill Baker, the Chief Structural Engineer for the project, invented the buttressed core structural system in order to enable the tower to achieve such heights economically.  Adrian Smith, who worked with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) until 2006, was the Design Partner on the project. Turner Construction Company was selected as the construction project manager. Under UAE law, the Contractor and the Engineer of Record are jointly and severally liable for the performance of Burj Dubai. Therefore, by adoption of SOM’s design and by being appointed as Architect and Engineer of Record, Hyder Consulting is legally the Design Consultant for the tower.

The total budget for the Burj Khalifa project is about US $1.5 billion; and for the entire new “Downtown Dubai”, US $20 billion. The metal-and-glass spire is touted as a “vertical city” of luxury apartments and offices. It boasts four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

According to the Burj’s developers, they are “confident in the safety of the tower, which is more than twice the height of New York’s Empire State Building’s roof.  Greg Sang, Emaar’s director of projects, said the Burj has ‘refuge floors’ at 25 to 30 story intervals that are more fire resistant and have separate air supplies in case of emergency. And its reinforced concrete structure, he said, makes it stronger than steel-frame skyscrapers.”

Engineer Baker reported that the Burj developer continued to push the design higher even after construction began, eventually putting it about 984 feet taller than its nearest competitor. This push came from Dubai’s determination to “reshape itself into a cosmopolitan urban giant packed with skyscrapers.”

How tall is too tall for a building? How complicated is too complicated for a bridge?  What do you think?

AP photo/Kamran Jebreili

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January 4, 2010 at 6:14 pm 7 comments

Bring On The New Year – Please!

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

This past year has been challenging for many in the A/E/P community and everyone associated with it. At least once a day I am asked “Where do you see the market heading in 2010? Do you see the job market picking up?” After 20+ years recruiting civil engineers, architects and planners I look into my crystal ball and my past civil engineering blogs and try to answer.  The answers usually depend on the daily changing news from my clients and various news sources.  Do I see an increase in hiring from my clients? Yes.  However, these needs are very specific. They are either strategic discipline hires or for candidates who meet their requirements exactly.  There is little to no flexibility in candidate experience.

Our community is watching President Obama and the US Congress. Workforce planning has become a guessing game for operations and human resources executives. Should firms hire for potential jobs or for projects awarded that have tentative start dates? Or, should firms implement overtime for existing staff and hold on making new hires? Tough questions. In either case, job seekers at all levels are discussing where to go next or what to do.

Many of us have minimal control over whether firms move forward in bringing on new staff.  So let’s take control over what we can manage.  If you are unhappy with your job, need a job or have let your job search go stale – take control and make or redesign a plan. If you need new clients – make a new plan. Whether you gain education, identify a recruiter to assist, join new associations for networking or apply to specific companies who have projects in your area of interest…just take action.  Our January newsletter author, Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP, CPESC, CPSWQ, poses the question “What will it take for you to make 2010 a ‘Career Year’?” This is a worthwhile read.

As 2009 comes to a close, I have one thing left to say, “Bring on the New Year – Please!”

Cheers!

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civil engineering jobs :: civil engineering resumes :: civil engineering blog :: civil engineering discussion

December 29, 2009 at 9:29 pm 2 comments

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