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Re: Cross-Training vs. Specialization

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>On Tue, 2 Jun 1998, Bill Polhemus wrote:
>> 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......
>> .....
>> 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.
>What happens if you lose your "Prestressed" person ?  Do you stop
>designing prestressed bridges ?
>What happens if all your bridges this year are steel ?  Does the
>"Prestressed" person get to loaf around and read magazines ?
>Unless your office is huge, you need redundancy in capabilities to
>handle changes in personnel or work load. Each person needs to have
>the capability to handle a variety of job assignments to accommodate 
>these changes.

>Specialization is for insects.

I agree with both Ed S. and Bill Allen. Overspecialization is not conducive
to the true practice of engineering as the applied science that it is. The
only place I've seen narrow specialization ids in very large companies and
government agencies. 

Most individuals that I've talked to who've worked for those types of
organizations have stated that they felt shortchanged in their professional
development as engineers because of that.

The "renaissance man" or woman in Kates case had the correct idea in that
one should strive to learn and know about as many "things " as possible in
order to benefit from the "crossfertilization" that that knowledge would add
to their understanding and creative processes.

Norb Volny, PE
>From the Boondocks