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Managing In A Crisis Environment Do You Have Your Fireman's Gear?

1945 words - 8 pages

Have you ever heard of the saying, "Man, your sweat pumps are on the line" or "Busier than a one-handed paper hanger"? That is how many workers feel in the engineering management arena these days. Everything seems to be in crisis mode more times than not. And why is that? Why is it that all of us are so busy all of the time? Our cell phones never stop ringing, our laptops are never more than an arm's length away, and we send emails during meetings from mobile handheld office mini-computers (PDAs). The term "9-1-1 syndrome" is a condition discussed in many circles. Many are also afflicted with the "urgency addiction" and this is discussed in detail on (Bobinski, 2004). This paper will identify how urgency impacts the technical industry and some possible ways to combat the vicious cycle of crisis management and fire fighting that poor priority management causes. In many of our technical environments, we have great technical people, but pitiful managers. The root cause of most engineering disasters is due to poor management of resources to include, people, budget, and schedule.The engineering consulting industry is normally divided into three levels: the Division Manager, project or program managers, and the project engineering staff. Most of the urgency in the industry trickles down from customer requests and the need to maintain satisfactory customer service. The effects of poor task prioritization affect almost everyone on every level. The Division Manager, whose responsibility is customer satisfaction, may get a call from a customer regarding a complaint, request, etc. They, in-turn, go to the program or project manager in charge of the project and tell them that they need to react immediately in order to keep the customer happy. The project manager then enlists the help of the engineering staff to address the situation. The situation has a negative effect on everyone's morale and schedule. Whatever the engineers and project manager were working on prior to the "emergency" are now put secondary.Steven Covey addresses prioritization in his book "First Things First," where he introduces the concept of the four quadrants (Covey, Merrill, & Merrill, 1994). The theory of the four quadrants is to categorize tasks according to their importance and urgency. Tasks that fall into category I are both urgent and important and need to be completed first. Category II tasks are those that are important, but not urgent, they do not need to be done immediately. Tasks that fall into categories III and IV are not considered important. However, even though category III tasks are not important they are urgent, or may appear to be, such as an impromptu meeting. Category IV tasks are not urgent, and so, they fall to the bottom of the priority list.The goal of this analysis is to prioritize tasks by the "real" need and importance and not the "urgency" of the task. One example of an artificial first priority task is that in our industry many customers call...

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