As you may already know, I started studying for my MBA this semester. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of fun. I’m having a blast and learning a lot.

One of the classes I’m taking now is in Operations and Supply Chain Management. Part of the required reading for that class is a book called The

The Goal of an Engineer

Photo credit: Flickr/ stevendepolo

Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, from Eli Goldratt. In this book, Goldratt argues that the ultimate goal of a company is to make money. It’s not to improve efficiency, increase market share, or reduce lead time – it’s to make money. While improving efficiency and all the rest could help a company make money, it won’t equate automatically to making money. Goldratt goes on to argue that a company is only being productive if its actions result in more sales – i.e. making money.

I don’t necessarily agree with Goldratt’s assertion that the only goal of a company is to make money. I definitely see value in new “sustainable” strategies that include people and the environment along with economics in the goal of a company. But that’s not the point of this post. What I wanted to talk about today was the idea that a company can’t be productive unless its making progress towards its goal.

You can’t be productive if you don’t know what your goal is.

I think the same principle can be applied to individuals. That raised a question in my mind: what’s the goal of an engineer? You can’t be productive if you don’t know what your goal is.

The Goal of an Engineer

So, what is the goal of an engineer? Obviously that’s something that’s up for  debate, and dependent on a number of things, but I’d like to offer my own thoughts:

I believe that goal of an engineer is to find ways to keep people safe, and to solve their problems efficiently and effectively. [\quote]

Obviously, this is a broad definition of the goal of an engineer, but I think it does a good job of capturing what we do. Regardless of what your discipline is, and regardless of the industry you’re in, these are your goals. Whether you design products, processes, or deliver services, this pretty well sums it up.

Being Productive With Respect to the Goal

According to Goldratt, you’re only being productive if you’re making progress with respect to your goal. So, now that we have a defined goal for engineers, what do we need to do to make sure we’re being productive? How do we gauge whether or not we’re making progress towards save solutions for people? I’ll be tackling the answers to these questions in Part II of this post and giving you some strategies to implement to make sure you’re being productive every day.

What’s Your Goal?

I’ve posted my idea of what the goal of an engineer is. What’s yours? Do you agree with what I’ve said, or do you have another version? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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