Engineers have to work in teams. It’s seldom that an engineer won’t have to face a team dynamic at some point. The problem some people have is behaving accordingly when working with a team. You either do well at teamwork or you don’t. The issue is, sometimes it is unavoidable. An engineer might end up working with other hot-headed engineers and suddenly a conflict arises. The shocking fact is that sometimes conflict might be a good thing. All you have to do is read Steve Jobs’ biography to see how many times he clashed with his fellow engineering pals but look at Apple today. So yes, conflict can be good, but sometimes, conflict can derail an entire project.
Scott Dietzen, the CEO of Pure Storage, a company that lends itself to all-flash solutions for demanding business and IT problems works with engineering-types. He recently wrote a Top 10 list of the top 10 things you need to do to be a successful engineer. It was published on Forbes’ website. The first one was, an engineer should choose meaningful problems. The second one was, build or join an outstanding team. The question is, whether or not that outstanding team will survive a conflict that arises. Is conflict necessary in an ‘outstanding’ team? Is being part of a team the deciding factor in making someone a good engineer?
“It’s an issue we have all the time and let’s face it conflict is actually a good thing,” says the Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Institute of Technology, Steve Mackay. He opens up about the conflict prevalent in the engineering industry in his video series the Engineering News Network. “Whenever you have a conflict in your team, the trick is always to deal with the problem as quickly as possible and also to try and focus on the issue, not the person. So, focus on the issue, try and deal with the issue, dissect it very carefully and try and listen carefully to all parties,” he added. He also says the action and decision on a certain issue should be swift as well,” he added.
Mackay ends his video off with a quote from Garth Brooks. The quote reads: “The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.”
Paul J Breaux at the Southwest Research Insitute wrote a guide to handling conflict in engineering teams that was published in the IEEE Xplore Digital Library. He wrote: “Conflict must be managed both locally and globally to assure the success of any engineering organization in its target industry. How an engineering organization manages conflict can directly impact its success or failure.” He alludes to the fact that ignoring conflict is not an option.
Dietzen’s other principles one should stick to – if they want to be a good engineer – are: