Engineering Development: An Integrated Approach
- D.F. Harvey (Mobil Oil Corp.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 1986
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,353 - 1,354
- 1986. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 6.1.5 Human Resources, Competence and Training
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- 103 since 2007
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Summary. To enhance our career development program, our Denver E and P Div. undertook a project that defined both the tasks and the personal characteristics needed to be a fully productive engineer. This paper describes the project's definitional process and the resultant implementation steps.
In the early 1980's, our Denver E and P Div. undertook a project to design a 5- to 7-year integrated development project to design a 5- to 7-year integrated development program to help new graduates become fully productive program to help new graduates become fully productive engineers.
This paper outlines the reasons for undertaking the project; describes the methodology, recommendations, and project; describes the methodology, recommendations, and results; and discusses some implications for the development of engineers.
The project was undertaken to consider the questions management was asking in the early 1980's.
1. How do we ensure that we have sufficient experienced engineers to run the business?
2. Is it possible to develop a fully contributing engineer in 5 to 7 years?
3. How do we let recently graduated engineers know that they are not fully qualified after 2 or 3 years of experience?
4. Is it possible to define engineering "experience" and "maturity"?
Although today's business conditions are radically different from those of the early 1980's, these questions remain relevant. The concerns then centered on high levels of turnover, the bimodal age distribution, and the number of senior engineers expected to retire within 5 to 7 years. Today, many senior engineers have retired, and a relatively young (by historical standards) engineering work force must cope with ever-changing business conditions in times when capital is scarce and inflation will not hide mistakes.
So the challenge became one of testing whether it is possible to integrate the process of developing engineers possible to integrate the process of developing engineers in such a way that productivity is improved and mistakes are reduced. This testing also had to be done in an industry full of unknowns, and where risk and high stakes are taken for granted.
In structuring the project, attempts were made to build from the "folk" wisdom of what is represented by way of "experience" and "maturity" by the engineers who are frequently asked the tough questions. Every organization has engineers who are respected by peers, managers, and new engineers for knowing what to do the people presidents call when they want a fast, accurate answer.
If several of these experts were studied and a definition reached on the profile of the expert/superior performer, then one would know how to direct the development performer, then one would know how to direct the development process. The object was to streamline the development process. The object was to streamline the development process rather than to develop "clones." This point is process rather than to develop "clones." This point is important, because the result should be additional productivity through faster, directed growth rather than a group productivity through faster, directed growth rather than a group of identical engineers.
The cornerstone of the project's methodology was to compare the superior performer with the average performer. From this knowledge, a conclusion could be drawn on where development dollars would be allocated.
The second major part of the methodology was to examine not only the technical skills and knowledge of the superior performer but how the person used them. The assumption was that technical knowledge was not the primary difference between the superior performer and primary difference between the superior performer and the average performer. Rather, the big difference was the personal characteristics that the individual brought to the personal characteristics that the individual brought to the job. Such important qualities as being well prepared, looking at a project from a cost/benefit viewpoint, forward thinking, knowing where the industry experts are, thinking conceptually as well as systematically, and enthusiasm were all significant. Grouped together, these personal characteristics represent the intangibles of an excellent engineer. By looking at these intangible qualities, we could define "experience" and "maturity."
A consulting group was used to develop and to implement the project. This group specializes in training-needs analyses that examine not only the job and the associated technical skills and knowledge, but also personal characteristics.
The first steps were to distribute two questionnaires to all the engineers-one covering technical skills and knowledge, the other personal characteristics. Next, a statistically chosen sample of experienced engineers was interviewed in-depth. During these interviews, each engineer was asked to describe in detail specific on-the-job engineering experiences. We were not interested in perceptions, but in actual events. The consultants analyzed perceptions, but in actual events. The consultants analyzed the interview transcripts, looking for themes that differentiated between superior and average performers.
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