Better Engineering Organizations from the Bottom Up

06 Feb 2023 8:13 AM | Patrick Sweet (Administrator)

[This post is by Mohamed Sedky, ASEM Professional Member]

When it comes to engineering management there are many practices and strategies that have been developed through the years and it all starts with an organization’s strategy, mission, vision, procedures, systems and more. In other words, the focus tends to come from the top down. In this article I will focus on another perspective which is the lower block in the organization, specifically how engineering managers can change a company’s behavior and achieve operational excellence from the ground up.

While you cannot instantly change a system that is already established within your company, you can focus on particular areas that are related to you, your own department for example, and drive positive change. 

Here are five steps I follow to achieve smaller scale, but impactful optimization:

Define Clear Objectives

Following your company’s mission and vision, you should define clearly what the objective of the project is. Is it to increase profit, save cost, enhance safety, or optimize operations? There are a lot of objectives that are somehow related to each other, but you need to understand what language your company speaks. Most companies are concerned about safety, reliability, and cost. You need to figure out which strategy you will follow depending on your company’s situation. Will you be focused on enhancing reliability at whatever it costs, or will you be more oriented towards cost optimization? Maybe your company suffers from a lot of safety incidents,  driving the need to focus on operating more safely. Determine what your management is talking about and it will make it easier for you later.

System Thinking

Start writing down all the processes and operations you do on a daily basis, reports you prepare, and actions you take. Ask yourself this: How does this department operate? How does it think? Start building small blocks of things you do and listing the stakeholders, suppliers, or other departments you deal with. Write it all down and then try to record how much time each process takes.   You should be careful about all the steps you do in order to have an integrated map of all processes.

Work Breakdown Structure

Start dividing your operations into categories. For example, put all the procurement operations together, collect all reports in one section, and after that you can work individually to break things down to see all related processes then analyze each work group who are involved. How long does it take? What are the obstacles we face? How can we improve this process?


After you are done building your map including all the processes of your department, now you should figure out the gaps you have. This could be done by asking the following questions:

  • What problem (outcome) are we trying to solve (improve)? 

  • Why is that what we want? Is it specific?

  • Where and what are the process(es)? 

  • Where does the process happen?

  • What are the steps, inputs, and outputs at each step? Where do they come from and where do they go? 

  • How good is the process? 

  • What work are people doing? What does it cost to run? How efficient and effective is it? 

  • What’s most important now? How are we doing it today? Who’s doing it? What is measured? What does and doesn’t work? How is it managed? 

Action plan

Take only one work group to start with. For example: the procurement cycle. Don’t go too far with gaps that need a management decision or investment, just start with the gaps you can manage following these steps:

  • Make the process visible 

  • Break it down into steps

  • Create work standards where it matters

  • Ensure the layout & flow can be seen to all involved in the process 

  • Use visual management

  • Make targets clear at each step

  • Define what supervisors do

  • Enable the right behaviors

  • Make it happen

Following the above-mentioned steps is very simple compared to how it may look in reality.  Great success will come when you only start with one gap to solve.  Remember the cycle of strategic management to follow. Situational analysis is very important to measure your current situation and assess the gaps before you can build your strategy, apply it, then measure how it is working. Never forget continuous improvement!

About Mohamed Sedky

Mohamed Sedky is a young Professional Engineer with more than 5 years’ experience in Oil and Gas. Mohamed’s passion for engineering management lead him to joining ASEM as a Professional Member, earning his Certified Professional in Engineering Management (CPEM) and a master’s in engineering management. Mohamed’s current work focuses on digitalization and optimization in maintenance engineering projects.

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Missouri S&T

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