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Cross-Training vs. Specialization[Subject Prev][Subject Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next]
- To: "'seaoc(--nospam--at)seaoc.org'" <seaoc(--nospam--at)seaoc.org>
- Subject: Cross-Training vs. Specialization
- From: Bill Polhemus <polhemus(--nospam--at)insync.net>
- Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998 09:21:34 -0500
We have an ongoing debate in our organization regarding the best philosophy for producing our bridge plans. The "oldsters," who've been around the block a few time, favor the tried-and-true "specialization" approach, where each member of the design group has a "specialty," such as prestressed beam design, or foundation design. In this scenario, each member of the team works on every job that requires his specialty. Their argument is, that this lends itself to an "assembly line" workflow, which tends to crank the work out expeditiously, and tends to eliminate so much need for checking and revision, since each member of the design team becomes so expert at his specialty that he can practically do it in his sleep. In turn, this helps enhance the company's profitability (or so the argument goes). Those of us with not so many grey hairs favor the "cross-training" approach, wherein every member of the team seeks to become as adept as possible in every phase of the work. To my mind, favoring the latter, there are two thoughts: 1) I have seen people who've come out of "specialized" organizations and who have basically to relearn the craft of structural engineering all over again, all aspects of their knowledge outside of their "specialization" having atrophied. For example, I knew a fellow about ten years ago, who'd been an engineer for seven years, and was registered. But practically the only thing he'd ever done was design AASHTO prestressed I-beams. When he came to our office as a new employee, he declared himself to be, in essence, an engineer-intern all over again, knowing next-to-nothing about anything else. 2) We can't rely on a uniform level of difficulty for our projects. At present, we have really only one large project presently working, but the norm is to have several smaller jobs. In fact, a good portion of the time we have several single-bridge projects, that bridge being simple enough that one accomplished engineer can practically do the whole thing himself. Cross-training helps to level out the resources needed in an uneven flow of work such as this. Those, at least, are MY arguments. I'd like to hear from others on this score. I'm sure there are a goodly number of persons on this list who've seen it both ways. How do you weigh in on this issue?
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