Engineering Duty Officer Fundamental Skills

Here is my list of fundamental skills you have to acquire to become a successful Engineering Duty Officer. Feel free to submit comments on what I missed or where you think I am wrong.

  • Solutions, strategies, and approaches need to be technically correct
  • Provide operators with options for construction and repair (see Technical Authority notes from RDML McCoy)
  • Schedules with realism (methodology, analysis, realistic projections, resource-leveled, in-use)
  • Brutal honesty, facing the facts (see “Good to Great”)
    • No wishful thinking, hope is not an acquisition strategy
  • Relentlessly building skills (“Sources of Power,” “Intuition at Work,” by Gary Klein) to keep improving at what you want to be able to do
  • Building realistic plan
    • The plan needs to be affordable -> Balance the books
    • Understand how similar projects of faired (beware the Planning Fallacy even though no one else does)
    • Normal humans have to be able to execute the plan (human factors)
    • Constantly check to make sure the plan is on track (use trip wires)
  • Don’t let idiots control or communicate your success (this has all sorts of implications)
  • Don’t be doing someone else’s day job (you let them off the hook, cannot sustain it, and probably are not resourced for it)
  • Don’t accept risk unnecessarily, without benefit, or without active management
  • You are not as smart/capable as you think you are so make it easy for others to disagree with you (sounds easy, hard to do, especially when you are a Captain)
  • Developing expertise at assessing material condition, appropriate program/project progress, effective programs
  • The ability to self-assess must be a core strength (see Internal Auditing: the Big Lies about what is wrong with most thinking about audits and my notes about what the Navy IG does)
    • True self-assessment is a 365 days a year process that is flexible, forward looking, and able to change based on emerging trends, allowing you to take considered and deliberate actions before an issue demands your   attention.  This means you identify and correct your own A-items   throughout the year.
    • Not all self-assessments are done the same way, nor should they be. The objectives, the principles that guide them, and some of the tools used   are broadly applicable.  Where organizations are similar, they should be   sharing and adopting best practices.  Where organizations are different, the   self-assessments should reflect that.
    • Senior management should have a current understanding of the activity's major problems and areas needing improvement, to be taking   appropriate and effective corrective actions, and to be actively looking for emerging trends and opportunities to improve operations. Outside organizations should be able to validate this at any time.
    • Self-assessments are not an "end."  Rather, self-assessment and the   appropriate management actions are the "means" to achieve the end of   improved performance.
    • Bottom Line:  Self-assessment should be viewed as leading to a product (a   better organization).  The process itself is not a product (to check a box   that the assessment is "done").  The results must warrant the process and   the effort.  You should be personally involved and make sure that your   people understand this message.
  • Being advocates for the “health” of the businesses we are in so you can explain how changes will impact them, good performance must be constantly shepherded
  • Addressing program/organization governance (cannot all be top down in the complex business we run)
  • Coaching/mentoring (not a unique ED challenge, but some ways are much more effective than others)
  • Problem solving skills and analysis, especially being able to discern among tame problems, wicked problems, and messes)
  • Balancing inquiry and advocacy
  • Earned value management, especially how it can be misleading
  • Other “soft” skills: ability to communicate technical issues effectively (point papers and not powerpoints, elevator speeches (I have a good ED school ppt on this topic), email subjects), see also “The New Rational Manager,” Kepner and Tregoe
  • Influencing people that do not work for you
  • Key tools/aspects of “Reframing the Organization” and Fifth Discipline FieldBook

The question to ask yourself is, "What is my plan for acquiring these skills?" since they will not just be handed to you and very few people pick them up through just coming to work each day.

Recent Reading – On the Web

How to Change Culture - Lessons from NUMMI