The word ‘value’ is challenging for engineers because it has several related meanings.
First the mathematical meaning. ‘Value’ denotes a number associated with a variable, for example x=2.72. It can also denote a numeric value in a spreadsheet cell resulting from calculations.
In our research we encountered some frustration among engineers about decisions that affect their work. The frustration often came from a perception that the people making these decisions did not understand engineering issues, and hence made decisions that resulted in less than desirable engineering outcomes. Sometimes this frustration was directed at clients who seemed to make short sighted decisions that resulted in problems that required more money to fix in the longer term. At other times, engineers seemed to blame bad decisions on ‘politics’, or the influence of people with enough power to overturn what the engineers saw as a more logical choice.
In some extreme cases, engineers would say something like “This company is run by f——-g accountants!” (Expletive has been replaced by dashes.)
Many engineers know that part of their role is to prepare a business case for new investment, or proposals with the aim of persuading clients to commission them to take on a new project. Engineers often have to conduct detailed technical analysis for the documents that go to clients, and often are also responsible for forecasting commercial outcomes. Net present value calculations and commercial sensitivity analyses are often part of this work.
It can be disappointing for engineers to put in long hours only to see the results ignored and what seem to be sound proposals passed over for seemingly illogical reasons. Continue reading