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Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/22/2010 4:24 PM

Does management focus on product development costs and delivery schedules? Does management have little/lots of interest in design integrity? Is it all about product cost and delivery schedules? Will your company ship a product with known problems? Do you confront management when you think they are making poor decisions? What's your ethics gripe?

I've seen it all and I'm curious to know what others have experienced. Generally from my personal experience, if the design is related to "life and limb" hardware, then management cares about design integrity. On the other side of the coin, if the product can't kill someone then management's interest in product integrity is sometimes nil and it's all about schedule and delivery. So I've been confronted with having to build the best stuff and irritated by those that accept delivering crap. How about you?

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#1

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/22/2010 8:11 PM

Yes.

milo

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#2

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/22/2010 9:13 PM

"Will your company ship a product with known problems?"

Does Microsoft still issue patches for its old software?

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/22/2010 9:34 PM

Ask McAfee.

milo

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#22
In reply to #3

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/24/2010 5:09 PM

All I know about McAfee is that it greets me every time I turn on the computer as it brings my web activity to a grinding halt.

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#23
In reply to #22

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/24/2010 6:13 PM

Who is McAffee? Haven't run in to him in the Linux world...

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#4

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 12:12 AM

I manage my own company. I STILL have ethical conflicts with management that I have to deal with. What is "ethical" in one situation may not be so "ethical" in another situation. When people start throwing the concept of "ethics" at me, I ask them to cite the authority which defines the ethical principle that is in question- most people can not (I have my own well-defined ethics code with historical cross-references, for those that are interested). I have even been told that if I don't know, then obviously I don't understand.

The only solution is to tell the truth. And remember that the customer is always right. I have a company policy- if the customer is not 100% satisfied with the product, he does not pay. Only once in the past ten years have I had a customer take advantage of this. About six months later, he was back and willing to pay twice what I had originally charged for me to fix what someone else had delivered. I could not accept the work for technical reasons, but the customer paid his outstanding bill...

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#9
In reply to #4

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 8:19 AM

Then you are relying on your customers ethics. Its good that you have customers with ethics.

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#17
In reply to #4

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 9:20 PM

I don't think I've ever worked for a company that truly sought 100% product satisfaction of the customer. I would seek 100% customer satisfaction of my own work. Maybe when a company loses its identity it also loses recognition of the customer; customer is simply reduced to a "thing" of non-importance. I suppose the "thing" factor is identified with the quality of a company's "customer service." Sony was great decades ago dealing with end-users. I could order quality television service manuals directly from Sony. Receiving a service manual directly from Sony is probably a thing of the past.

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#5

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 12:56 AM

Hi BILLR and CR4 Members,

Especially in business, a lie (or not disclosing the full truth in some instances) will come back to bite you in the a$$. As far as I am concerned, being dishonest with your customers is financial suicide in the long run. You and your customers have relationships. You and your vendors have relationships. The more these are positively cultivated, the better chance you have to succeed. I attribute this attitude (which is actually a byproduct of the primary one), secondary only to the owner having a steadfast belief in God, for the reason we have stayed financially strong through the recession. Hard work is included.

I know some of the members will want to ridicule and belittle the primary reason for our success through this. That is why am leaving this forum, just as Blink did. I believe I can do more elesewhere.

Best Wishes to All,

Mike

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#6
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Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 2:28 AM

Such as on Amazon religion threads (q.v.)?

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#8
In reply to #5

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 8:03 AM

Meaning no disrespect, but you know managements that manage for the long term?

You will be missed.

milo

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#12
In reply to #5

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 10:47 AM

Sparkstation, Cnpower, Blink, Mikerho, Epke (Not visible now a days) ...

The exit continues...

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#16
In reply to #5

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 9:01 PM

I agree that dishonesty with a customer will impact a company in the long term. I've worked with a few companies that cornered the marketplace with a product and didn't give a hoot how he treated the customer. If one customer was "burned," there'd be another customer coming around the corner; certainly an arrogant position taken by any company. One company pushed 60-day payment terms with its vendors when the company was making plenty of money and could have sent the vendor payment the following day after delivery of the parts. They were just seeing how far they could push the payment terms for the fun of it. These are ugly company practices.

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#7

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 3:19 AM

Yes, frequently. Not to let perfection be the enemy of success but sometimes managements budget / schedule is simply unrealistic even if everything goes smoothly.

Sometimes you must simply tell management "Do you want it on budget / schedule or do you want it done right? Pick one."

Smart managers will (reluctantly) choose the latter realizing that they can make the money up the next time the customer comes around. Managers who choose the former don't get that chance because the customer doesn't come back.

Of course in matters of safety where life and limb are at stake managements wishes take a back seat no matter how stressful it gets for the engineer. If you sign off on it, it is your responsibility. Period.

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#10

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 8:44 AM

I too have often seen such things.

But as much as it frustrates me from an Engineering pride perspective (and sometimes it does so mightily!), it's simply not our job to "manage management". The decisions on whether or not to ship sub-optimal product lie solely in their domain. Keep this thought in mind at all times - you'll sleep better.

Our job is only to do the best we can with the resources allotted and make all options available to management in as clear, simple and concise form as possible so the poor MBA-weilding syphillis-addled zombie loons can muddle together some kind of businesss plan gleaned from their scribbled-on, gin-soaked cocktail napkins.

Of course in cases of products potentially inflicting harm, we have (if factory-installed) a moral obligation to stand up on the desk and scream "NO!!!".

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#11

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 9:47 AM

In my limited experience in the "real" world, the project managers are usually the ones who squeeze to get things done on time and on budget (often more short term thinking). Ultimately I report to a product manager, who is responsible for all of the products our group delivers and signs off on everything that we do (often more long term thinking). In essence, the product manager has no interest in the budget of a project, just what the output from the group is. And since I report to a product manager, emphasis for my performance is placed on quality, second to project and financial success. Although this structure sometimes causes friction, I think it's a great way to ensure quality and customer satisfaction while ensuring financial success, and make certain that no crappy products are delivered.

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#13

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 1:46 PM

Yes, in the past, in my air force experience. I've had a colonel tell me," ... I don't care. I don't have to fly it. My job is to bring it in on time and under-budget." Having suceeded in delivering an inferior, unsafe product, he was promoted to brigadeer general, after which he screwed up a much bigger program, delivering, late, a bomber which could not be used, for which he was promoted to lieutenant general in charge of all aircraft procurement. Not only did I have objections to his ethics, but I also disagreed with the ethics of those who promoted him. "Percussive sublimation"? (Get rid of him by kicking him upstairs?)

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 2:20 PM

Actual if your in the military and your good at a position it is very hard to get pronoted I knew of a sargent in intellegence, spoke (4) laguages fluently was in for 12 years. and a luey that was in for 16 years, he could not get promoted because the military was saturated with brass.

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#15
In reply to #13

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/23/2010 8:46 PM

Is success in the military more about doing what you are told to do and doing it without questioning superiors? Maybe that's how this person was kicked up stairs, he did what he was told to do. And the same is somewhat true in industry: do what you are told to do and if you don't like it then shut your mouth, anyway.

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#21
In reply to #15

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/24/2010 2:45 PM

Yes.

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#18

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/24/2010 7:25 AM

People talk about quality, and how it should be. It sounds like that they are willing to give the customer more that expected or what the customer paid for.

Nothing wrong with giving a little extra time to time. You have to realize, if the customer did not pay for it. It is weaking the company to extinction if done consistantly..

Is that on there dime? or the companies?

The companies of course.

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#19
In reply to #18

Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/24/2010 1:55 PM

Actually, this is a controversial subject. In my opinion, investments in quality efforts by the company Always Pays, but it is an investment in the future, that bean counters can't comprehend. Entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos et al, invest in innovation AND quality, and thereby navigate towards Doing The Job Right The First Time.

and that turns out to be a win-win for customer and company. There are so many opportunities for improvement, large and small, that critical thinking and action can continuously improve quality with little investment. (and some of course, require great investment)

Chris

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#20
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Re: Do Your Engineering Ethics Conflict With Management?

04/24/2010 2:08 PM

I can see that, everyone enjoys dealing with a company that will live up to and do what they say they'll do.

But you also have to realize, that going beyond that, to a point of losing money is not good business.

Of course quality pays, but few people understand the equilibrium of that and staying in business.

The more successful ones can.

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