Unwritten Laws Of Engineering

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Unwritten Laws of Engineering

Extracts from J Skakoon and King's book "The Unwritten Laws of Engineering".

For other versions of this PDF, see here.


What The Beginner Needs To Learn At Once

In Relation To The Work

  • However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.
  • Demonstrate the ability to get things done.
  • Develop a “Let’s go see!” attitude.
  • Don’t be timid—speak up—express yourself and promote your ideas.
  • Strive for conciseness and clarity in oral or written reports; be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements.


In Relation To Your Supervisor

  • One of the first things you owe your supervisor is to keep him or her informed of all significant developments.
  • Do not overlook the steadfast truth that your direct supervisor is your “boss.”
  • Be as particular as you can in the selection of your supervisor.
  • Whenever you are asked by your manager to do something, you are expected to do exactly that.


Regarding Relations With Colleagues and Outsiders

  • Cultivate the habit of seeking other peoples’ opinions and recommendations
  • Promises, schedules, and estimates are necessary and important instruments in a well-ordered business.
  • In dealing with customers and outsiders, remember that you represent the company, ostensibly with full responsibility and authority.

Relating Chiefly to Engineering Managers

Individual Behaviour and Technique

  • Every manager must know what goes on in his or her domain
  • Do not try to do it all yourself
  • Put first things first in applying yourself to your job
  • Cultivate the habit of “boiling matters down” to their simplest terms
  • Do not get excited in engineering emergencies – keep your feet on the ground
  • Engineering meetings should neither be too large nor too small
  • Cultivate the habit of making brisk, clean-cut decision
  • Do not overlook the value of suitable “preparation” before announcing a major decision or policy


Managing Design and Development Projects

  • Learn project management skills and techniques, then apply them to the activities that you manage
  • Plan your development work far enough ahead of production so as to meet schedules without a wild last-minute rush
  • Beware of seeking too much comfort in planning your engineering programs
  • Be content to “freeze” a new design when the development has progressed far enough
  • Constantly review projects to make certain that actual benefits are in line with costs in money, time, and human resources
  • Make it a rule to require, and submit, regular periodic progress reports, as well as final reports on completed projects


On Organizational Structures

  • Make sure that everyone has been assigned definite positions and responsibilities within the organization
  • Make sure that everyone has the authority they need to execute their jobs and meet their responsibilities
  • Make sure that all activities and all individuals are supervised by someone competent in the subject matter involved


What All Managers Owe Their Employees

  • Never misrepresent a subordinate’s performance during performance appraisals
  • Make it unquestionably clear what is expected of employees
  • Promote the personal and professional interests of your employees on all occasions
  • Do not hang on to employees too selfishly when they are offered a better opportunity elsewhere
  • Do not short-circuit or override your subordinates if you can possibly avoid it
  • You owe it to your subordinates to keep them properly informed
  • Do not criticize a subordinate in front of others, especially his or her own subordinates
  • Show an interest in what your employees are doing
  • Never miss a chance to commend or reward subordinates for a job well done
  • Always accept full responsibility for your group and the individuals in it
  • Do all you can to see that your subordinates get all of the salary to which they are entitled
  • Do all you can to protect the personal interests of your subordinates and their families

Professional and Personal Considerations

Laws of Character and Personality

  • One of the most valuable personal traits is the ability to get along with all kinds of people
  • Do not be too affable
  • Regard your personal integrity as one of your most important assets
  • Never underestimate the extent of your professional responsibility and personal liability
  • Let ethical behaviour govern your actions and those of your company


Regarding Behaviour in the Workplace

  • Be aware of the effect that your personal appearance has on others and, in turn, on you
  • Refrain from using profanity in the workplace
  • Take it upon yourself to learn what constitutes harassment and discrimination – racial, ethnic, sexual, religious – and tolerate it not at all in yourself, your colleagues, your subordinates, or your company
  • Beware of what you commit to writing and of who will read it
  • Beware of using your employer’s resources for personal purposes. It may be considered suspicious at best, and larcenous at worst


Regarding Career and Personal Development

  • Maintain your employability as well as that of your subordinates
  • Analyse yourself and your subordinates