Image

Engineering (from Latin ingenium, meaning “cleverness” and ingeniare, meaning “to contrive, devise”) is the application of scientificeconomic, social, and practical knowledge in order to design, build, maintain, and improve structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes. It may encompass using insights to conceive, model and scale an appropriate solution to a problem or objective.  (source: Wikipedia)

As humans we are apt to try and fool ourselves into believing that we aren’t perfect but we can be if we follow a ritualist approach to things.  We do this in order to convert what might be haphazard into a prescriptive, methodical and cohesive way.  One might ask why this is wrong?  In fact it is quite well intentioned and in most cases a quite appropriate thing to do.  Since the beginning of engineering like activities we have worked as skilled, talented artisans.  As the popularity and durability of the profession became established a need flourished to put formality (in written and pictorial form) to it.  But did we do it right or did we simply scribe forth what we had done and overlooked some of the more important aspects such as the ‘skilled craft’ element that only a select few can do?

I’m sure some of you have read ‘How to’ books, how often can you apply what is being written and have it turn out like it was intended to?  Skill, talent and even mental conditions are of immeasurable importance to the outcome whether we follow guiding instructions or not.  We often marvel at those individuals who can use (or not use) a guide and still overcome challenges and may even further improve upon what is being done.   The true purposes behind these pragmatic and detailed engineering frameworks is to institutionalize behavior in the context of the masses.  It is a foregone conclusion that the ‘masses’ must do something with it other than blindly use it.  People need to consume, explore, develop experience with and institutionalize it within the sphere of technical abilities.  It isn’t about adaptation but embellishment.  We hear time and time again that it “will depend” or “it may not fit all circumstances” and my reply is simply “rubbish”.  The framework of engineering is universal and if sound it will bear tentacles applicable to the situations and circumstances for which it is being applied.  An example is the comparison of traditional software development methods (waterfall, RUP, RAD, JAD, iterative, conical, V-Model…) against agility (Scrum, Xp, Crystal…).  They all have three components; a stimuli, construction and confirmation.  Whether the stimuli is created in an ah hoc fashion by inexperienced and unskilled individuals is irrelevant.  What we do with this source and the participants involve is a totally different matter however.  Its only when it start entry into the engineered construction cycle that we make choices about the raw materials.  If substandard or inadequate we know that it needs transformation to a level acceptable for advancement.  As professionals we are obligated to exercise prudent care, not reckless acceptance.  NO Engineering method will ever overcome environmental conditions that are unacceptable.  If one leaves these matters to chance or luck then its not engineering its what we would call ‘game theory’ and the last time I knew there was no mention of such facts in the annals of ‘best practice’.  The ploying of engineering practices to construct make best sense when in harmony with the intellect and experience level of its participants.  Even though there might be a better engineering approach to a problem one can never overlook the readiness of the people involved.  Too much, too dramatic and a steep uphill learning curve that has been contaminated by past failures is not a right setting for revolutionary change.  Let me be a little more to the point, it might be just what is needed however all of the other things (in the negative) that have gone wrong will only make this attempt ripe for failure by way of it being used as an excuse.

The art of engineering takes the pieces, places them inside of a vision (aka a design driven outcome) and is crafted and bonded together.  This is, as we all know, in the most simplistic and idealistic sense.  What really takes place is allot of effort driven by experience, compensated and grown through collaborative efforts, and willingness for open transparency as to what is taking place.  If it becomes an exercise in politics and hidden agendas the engineering initiative has failed from the onset.  This is about producing results and not about a total fixation on happiness.  Both can occur but not at the expense of the other.

This gives you a bit of a sense for engineering in its most primal sense.  Its pragmatic, yet flexible, intent on knowledge equality among the masses and a means to achieve sound/safe/reliable results.  An engineering method is only as good as the authors, for they are human.

Advertisements