he only constant in life is change.Anyone who
s lived through the past5 years of economic ups and downsknows how true this statement can be.The stock market saw record highs,homeowner property values skyrock-eted, and companies enjoyed consistent double-digitgrowth and profits. There seemed to be no endin sight.Then, all that good fortune evaporated as quickly asit had been created. For the 20 years preceding thecrash, the economic policy had been to promote lev-erage and asset price appreciation in an effort to keepconsumers pumping money into the economy. Theyobliged, and the economy benefited by growing ata record pace. Unfortunately for us, there reached apoint when the debt levels became unsustainable,and we suffered the impacts of a major correction,i.e., the Great Recession.Now, many economists are pointing to a
one defined by lower demand driven bylower availability of credit and leverage. What doesthis mean? It means that in a lower growth economy,competition to sell goods and, particularly, serviceswill be as fierce as ever, and firms will explore newstrategies to compete. Some will work; some willnot. Some firms will succeed, and some will disappear.So, our story begins. What can firms do to remaincompetitive? How can they maintain or increasemarket share, growth, and profitability in this neweconomy?The old adage
people are our most important as-sets
gets a lot of lip service, but the firms that trulybelieve this will be the most successful. This is becausepeople have the knowledge, skills, and relationshipsthat make a thriving and productive firm.To create competitive advantages through people,an organization should focus on promoting thefollowing:1. A belief in individual responsibility and auton-omy and a strong sense of team collaboration;2. A culture of continual training, education, andmentoring;3. A challenging work environment in whicheveryone is committed to excellence;4. Open communication and collaboration; and5. Strong leadership to challenge and support em-ployees to reach higher levels of success.We will show you examples of ways that our firm,GEI Consultants, Inc., has attempted to create aculture and organization that is aligned with thesebeliefs. GEI was founded in 1970 in Boston, whereits headquarters is still based today. It is a privatelyheld company of 530 consulting engineers, scientists,and business systems support staff, with 26 officesthroughout the United States. Its core technicalpractices are geotechnical, water resources, environ-mental and ecological science and engineering con-sulting. GEI Consultants, Inc., has completed morethan 35,000 projects, in all 50 U.S. states andmore than 20 countries.Although we use GEI as our primary example, wedo not mean to imply that we have the
organi-zation or management philosophy. However, thisapproach has worked for us and it might work foryou too.
Our image of the average worker in America hasundergone tremendous change in the past 200 years.From farmers to factory workers and now to
(a term coined by Peter Drucker forpeople who work with information rather thanthings), the change hasbeen nothing less than remark-able. The outdated carrot-and-stick strategy for moti-vating and engaging employees no longer applies totoday
s knowledge workers.Companies that realize this and engage their staff through freedom, inclusion, and shared responsibilityare more apt to have happy, motivated employees.Such employees will deliver better solutions to prob-lems, be more efficient, and ultimately drive organi-zations to new levels of growth and profitability.
Why Are Responsibility and Autonomy SoImportant?
Most professionals, especially high-performing ones,crave high levels of responsibility. It is part of theirpsychological makeup. Moreover, responsibility lendsitself to a true feeling of accomplishment and progressin one
s job. When employees feel that they are mak-ing a difference, they become engaged.Autonomy means an employee can direct his or herown actions to complete tasks and solve problemswithin the general context of the organization. Moreoften than not, people don
t like being told exactlywhat to do and exactly how to do it.Anyone who is a parent knows the power of autonomy. Although threatening a child to complythrough coercion will often work in the short term,teaching a child over time what the right things todo are and why they should do them will ultimately
Leadership and Management in Engineering
Leadership Manage. Eng. 2013.13:96-100.
D o w n l o a d e d f r o m a s c e l i b r a r y . o r g b y H o l l y K o p p e l o n 0 4 / 1 6 / 1 3 . C o p y r i g h t A S C E . F o r p e r s o n a l u s e o n l y ; a l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d .