on May 24th, 2010

Dear colleagues

Andy Grove, the innovative and hard driving ex-CEO of the business behemoth Intel, and a famous chemical engineer, made the remark ‘Only the paranoid survive in business’ many years ago when referring to how he grew Intel so vigorously (and profitably) over many decades; despite dealing with enormous technical change, vigorous competition and rapid growth.

When you look around you at the carcasses of engineering companies, one can clearly see that technical change can be harsh on what initially appears to be an unbeatable business proposition. From Kodak, Polaroid, DEC, Atari and a myriad of other computer, technology and engineering companies.

One can see companies such as the famous American telephone company AT&T (worth $123 billion) tussling with these issues now. Currently, it has exclusive rights to provide wireless services in America for Apple’s iPhone and iPad and this is perhaps masking some underlying potential problems. At the core of AT&T’s business - consumers are dropping landlines in droves and wireless revenue growth is plateauing now that everyone has mobile (cell) phones. There is also fierce competition from cable companies and small firms offering pre-paid mobile deals at far lower prices (acting like a flesh eating virus spreading over the body of the telecoms companies’ bodies, as one consultant calls them)

As a result, one has to be vigilant (paranoid?) and constantly looking to widen your company’s offerings. And indeed, constantly making real improvements to one’s product (or services). If you don’t; you are out of business. And by business, I don’t only mean a business but you in selling your personal engineering skills.

Suggestions here include:

• Constantly benchmark your engineering services and products against others in the market
• Ensure your clients are getting real value
• Constantly question whether there are better and simpler ways of engineering your products and services
• Look to increase your portfolio of skills and services
• Constantly research and implement improvements and improve your know-how and skills
• Keep a view of the bigger picture and avoid engineering for engineering’s sake
• Don’t be put off by initial resistance by customers to your great new products which definitely add value
• Avoid the insanity of doing the same thing again and again if it is not working

As William Burroughs remarked: A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve


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