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Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

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  • 1.  Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-16-2019 11:35 PM
    How common is it for engineering firms to have a system in which employees provide anonymous feedback to their managers? It seems like this would be a good way to identify and correct poor management, thereby benefiting all parties: employee, manager, and the company overall.

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    Anthony Vecchio
    Philadelphia, PA
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  • 2.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-17-2019 08:43 AM

    Hey Anthony,

     

    I've been at many companies in my career before going out on my own and found anonymous managerial surveys all too common.

     

    I'm a strong believer in that, although engineers are highly analytical, they're just ordinary people which are about half and half analytical and emotional. As someone famously put it, we are feeling machines that think, not thinking machines that feel.

     

    Emotions can be positive and negative but, due to the stress of our field and life, in general, negative emotions will mostly get the best of us – especially most managers who exude that negativity down to our employees, thereby, making them negative, also.

     

    What's worked wonders for me in becoming an optimist and managing negative emotions in me and in others is a very short book called EQ is for Everyone by Dr. Hank Clemons. It will change your life for the better!

     

    Congrats on making it to Friday! Have a great weekend!

     

     

    Dave Ureña, P.E.

    Banneker, LLC

    3104 N. Armenia Ave

    Suite 2

    Tampa, FL 33607

    813.415.7872

    dave@...

     






  • 3.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-17-2019 02:45 PM

    As a quick thought – it seems to me passing comments and opinions anonymously is hardly a sound practice. The reason is that anonymity has an aura of irresponsibility. It is like turning one against another – it is another way of creating divisiveness and mistrusts within an organization – thus hindering productivity.

    As overseer of things – there are many ways, the top management can judge the performance of middle and low-level managers – including employee satisfaction. What is needed – is perhaps creating an environment of ownership and belonging within the organization – from top to the bottom.

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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Website: https://widecanvas.weebly.com
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  • 4.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-18-2019 09:46 AM
    ​In the US Dept of Transportation, we have a formal process of 360 degree feedback. It provides valuable input to employees based on feedback from the people they supervise, their supervisors, peers, other partners.

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    Michael Avery P.E.,M.ASCE
    Associate Division Administrator
    FHWA
    San Juan PR
    (202)258-3615
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  • 5.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-17-2019 05:03 PM
    It has always served me well to never tell my boss how to do his job.  You can question him in the moment, but let it go after that.  Poor management will fall to the wayside while you rise to the top.  If your manager is being unprofessional or unethical, that's another story.  Speak to them first privately and if that does not get results, go over their head.  No system is required.

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    Chad Morrison P.E.,M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207
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  • 6.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.
    Best Answer

    Posted 05-19-2019 11:18 PM
    As far as I am aware, this is uncommon in anything but large firms or government.

    If it is necessary to hide behind anonymous feedback - as opposed to giving it directly and with respect, regardless of if the person's title in the corporate food chain -  poor management is likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to challenges with company culture.

    It also begs the question, what is the purpose of getting feedback?

    Part of being a good employee (and manager) is being able to give and receive professional, constructive feedback (both good and bad). Unfortunately, many engineering professionals have been taught to avoid conflict or criticism altogether from childhood, and simply don't know how to give and receive feedback.  As a result, we give feedback that is vague and not actionable, and we receive feedback by brushing off compliments when the feedback is positive and becoming defensive/taking it personally when feedback is negative. Relevant to this discussion, here's a helpful recent article in the Harvard Business Review discussing what good feedback looks like, of note is that telling someone how to fix a problem is usually NOT proper feedback:  https://hbr.org/2019/05/what-good-feedback-really-looks-like

    Vague feedback is useless but common (i.e. your communication skills need work), and specific behavioral feedback is uncommon and extremely helpful (i.e. Here's a specific situation where you did xxxxxx well. And, here's a situation where xxxxxxx happened, what did you learn and let's talk about what could be done differently next time.).  Behavioral feedback typically requires that someone witnessed or was involved in a situation, therefore it's almost impossible to give anonymously, short of a large meeting with many witnesses.  Good feedback usually requires dialogue and isn't just one-way.

    If the purpose of feedback is to actually improve the situation - as opposed to providing an excuse to avoid an uncomfortable but necessary conversation - anonymous feedback typically falls short of the mark.  It's also been my experience that most humans (engineers included) hear what we want to hear........if the manager (or employee) is unwilling or unable to hear constructive feedback for any reason (for example it's being given when he/she is already overloaded with work), feedback (anonymous or otherwise) won't make a difference and won't change the situation.


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    Stephanie Slocum P.E.,M.ASCE
    Founder
    Engineers Rising LLC
    www.engineersrising.com

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  • 7.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-20-2019 09:59 AM
    The Harvard Business Review ​just had an article and podcast on the topic of feedback.

    What Managers Get Wrong About Feedback
    Harvard Business Review remove preview
    What Managers Get Wrong About Feedback
    Marcus Buckingham, head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute, and Ashley Goodall, senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco Systems, say that managers and organizations are overestimating the importance of critical feedback.
    View this on Harvard Business Review >



    The article went into the topic of feedback and those who give feedback may be looking at feedback all wrong. We need to concentrate on an individual's strength through the feedback process to help elevate the area where individuals need to improve.

    If you are someone who manages staff and has to provide feedback, maybe consider changing your approach to providing feedback.

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    Kenneth Mika, PE M.ASCE

    (414)731-3111
    kmika@...
    Green Bay, WI
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  • 8.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 05-20-2019 10:00 PM
    Thanks for all the great responses. The insights you've provided make a lot of sense. And I will definitely read those articles.

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    Anthony Vecchio
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  • 9.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 06-11-2019 11:43 AM
    Thanks for all the comments on this thread, which inspired a blog about how to give and receive feedback! If you want to do a deeper dive into how we can give and receive better feedback, check it out here:   How to Give and Receive Feedback that Doesn't Suck
    Engineers Rising LLC remove preview
    How to Give and Receive Feedback that Doesn't Suck
    Bill Gates said "We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve." Yet, when was the last time you gave or received feedback you could immediately act on at work? Learn how to get and give good feedback, even if you have no time to do it.
    View this on Engineers Rising LLC >
    https://www.engineersrising.com/blog/feedback


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    Stephanie Slocum P.E.,M.ASCE
    Founder
    Engineers Rising LLC
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  • 10.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-20-2019 12:35 PM

     "How common is it for engineering firms to have a system in which employees provide anonymous feedback to their managers? It seems like this would be a good way to identify and correct poor management, thereby benefiting all parties: employee, manager, and the company overall."

     What a great premise!

     First, it recognizes that for most people, particularly no less than some 75% or more of civil engineers, giving direct feedback to a manager that is not going to be well-received by that manager is best delivered in a timely and anonymous system.

     My perspective on some contributions to this dialogue to date:

    1. "As a quick thought – it seems to me passing comments and opinions anonymously is hardly a sound practice. The reason is that anonymity has an aura of irresponsibility. It is like turning one against another – it is another way of creating divisiveness and mistrusts within an organization – thus hindering productivity."

    Actually, it turns out to create the very opposite effect! Once an employee is safe to report their experience without fear of reprisal, and that employee's experience can now be assessed within a group of other employees who also work with/for the same manager, we would now have a basis for understanding. And then can address corrective and preventive actions to our system of management.

    1. "As far as I am aware, this is uncommon in anything but large firms or government. If it is necessary to hide behind anonymous feedback - as opposed to giving it directly and with respect, regardless of if the person's title in the corporate food chain -  poor management is likely just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to challenges with company culture."

    First, I am not clear as to where the population of "Large firms" begins.

     The issue this thread centers upon is the group "People."

     More specifically, mainly women and men entering and/or in various segments of the Civil Engineering profession.

     Professionally, some years ago I seem to recall the American Consulting Engineers Council, Wash., DC, was promoting the managed use of anonymous employee survey techniques, not for "Hiding," but for the recognition of the implications of a Human Systems Engineering TM process few, if any, civil engineers had been educated nor practiced in using.

     Of course, there is more to come.

     Thank you for reading and considering my thoughts.

    Cheers,

    Bill



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 11.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-20-2019 01:13 PM
    I wish I would get more feedback from my employees and ask for it as often as I can, yet receive none.The only time I received some was in a disciplinary meeting with an employee who would show up late or sometimes not show up without calling. He accused me of being a "bad manager" but didn't say exactly why. Perhaps my fault was being too lenient? An anonymous system for complaints would help as long as it is not simply complaining for the sake of complaining.

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    Yance Marti P.E.,M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer IV
    City of Milwaukee
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 12.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-20-2019 11:47 PM

      I  M  A  G  I  N  E

     Ex.1.  When you learn that a long-term client was unhappy, and thinking of leaving your firm, you call them and ask "Please tell me   what I need to do to keep earning your trust?"

     Ex.2. Your most valued professionals leave your firm, when it is most convenient for them, because of the absence of at least, one of the following:

     Lack of challenge; Lack of recognition; and, Lack of opportunity.

     And please don't argue those career steps were always there.

     Because if they were not known to your staff, then they didn't really exist, did they?

     Ex.3. Habits can either save your life, or cause it to end prematurely.

     Many brilliant women and men have stated that changing a habit is an extremely difficult challenge for the best of us. For an engineering example most face daily, let's take "The Cost of Quality."  The four categories[1]are Prevention, Appraisal, Internal Failure, and External Failure.

     Despite the unarguable knowledge that Internal Failure and External Failure costs our organizations anywhere from 100 to 1000 times more than Prevention and Appraisal costs, guess what?  Habit trumps knowledge every time.

     

     Q. Do you see what the three examples above have in common with this thread?

    Of course, there will be more to come.

    Thank you for reading and considering my thoughts.
    Cheers,
    Bill

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    [1]I leave it to you to look it up to see the basics of how this simple calculation works.



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 13.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-21-2019 06:39 PM
    Thanks for the comments Bill. I'm not sure what the three examples have in common, but I'm looking forward to the follow-up post.

    Regards,
    Anthony

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    Anthony Vecchio PE, A.M.ASCE
    Engineer III
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 14.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-24-2019 02:34 PM

    "How common is it for engineering firms to '''have a system'in which employees provide anonymous feedback to their managers? It seems like this would be a good way to identify and correct poor management, thereby benefiting all parties: employee,manager, and the company overall."

     What a great premise!

                            I  M  A  G  I  N  E 

     A1.You had no system of prevention or client quality relationship management in place.

    A2.  You had no system of a planned visible mutual support for an Employee's Career Development Dialogue, at least semi-annually.

    A3. At project initiation/startup, even when someone asks a challenging question relative to the scope, schedule or budget, they are 'thanked' and told to just "Get the project work going' and you'll get back to them later. You have no system of having Senior Technical Department staff validating the contracted scope, schedule, and budget within the first 5% of the project's life cycle. You argue "We don't have time or budget for this!"  But you will learn later how very wrong you were.

    Q. Now do you see what the three examples above have in common with this thread?

    Of course, if interested, there will be more.

    Cheers,

    Bill

     



    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
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  • 15.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-24-2019 09:41 PM
    It's important to have systems in place that ensure competent, effective management. Effective communication and the development of interpersonal skills are critical to the effectiveness of management and success of the organization.

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    Anthony Vecchio P.E.,M.ASCE
    Engineer III
    Philadelphia PA
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  • 16.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-25-2019 10:18 PM

    Managers have a responsibility to their team to check themselves

    First, we have to lose words like "good or bad" feedback.

    Same goes for "Positive" and "Negative" feedback.

    Simply report the findings compared to the requirements.

     

    Next, get over your false impression that if you occupy a chair in the executive suite, that makes you a "King"of sorts whom everyone comes in to work each day to serve. Actually, you need to be your people's Servant-Leader as we continue into the 21st Century.

    E.g., When's the last time you came in to the office on a Saturday or Sunday morning, or at 7 pm during the M to F week, walked right into a working team and asked, "How might I help right now? Can I go for coffees? Do you have what you need for this phase of the project work?

     Also, stop pretending to be the "Know-it-all engineer/manager/project manager!"

    Test for this behavior: When is the last time you said out-loud to project workers "You know what, I'm not sure I understand. Can you help me with this?

     

    OPINION

    There is no easier advice to give nor more difficult advice to receive than that which arrives unsolicited!

     Anyway, here is mine…. Although, Anthony, so very subtly slipped it in to his post.

     "Create a feedback system to identify areas of improvement."

     Dr. W. Edwards Deming reminded us that

          "It's the system, not the people."

     

    1. What does this mean to me?

    Simply having alleged performance reviews[1]of your people, absent of your entire system of management is lunacy in motion!

     

    Example:

    Sally receives a performance review value of 8.0,

     Where X + Y = 8.0

     X, Sally's work she is able to control

     Y, that part of your organization that impacts Sally's ability to work better.

     What is the value of "Y"

     

    The last point, and most challenging.

    Any system you wish to take root across, under, over, and though your people
    will only happen AFTER you have established TRUST.

    T = f ( I, R, C)

     WhereT,Trust,

     I, Integrity, R, Reliability, and C, Competence.

     And again, 2 out of 3 won't work.

     Again, my appreciation if you have actually read this far!

     Cheers,

    Bill

    [1]Check your productivity 30 days before, during and 45 days after your "Performance Reviews"

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  • 17.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-26-2019 10:41 AM
    And if I may add another truth to our daily engineering management language,
    we have to always place 'efficient' and 'effective' in the same sentence,
    no exceptions, and be diligent in assuring that is true.

    One means doing the right thing,
    the other doing it right.

    And the litmus test for both: HDYK.
    Cheers,
    Bill
    How Do You Know

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    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: Holding engineering managers accountable: creating a feedback system to identify areas of improvement.

    Posted 07-28-2019 10:10 PM
    Perhaps we can conclude: as trust grows the system becomes less structured and anonymous and more informal and personal.

    ------------------------------
    Chad Morrison P.E.,M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207
    ------------------------------