June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
15.119.1 - 15.119.18
Achieving Organizational Sustainability: An Engineering Management Challenge or Opportunity?
Organizational sustainability in terms of societal, environmental, and financial impacts may become the overarching success factor for technology-driven businesses in the global marketplace. This triple-bottom line has received considerable attention in the literature. However, the question of sustainability becoming an independent field is still being debated.1
Engineering management may become a major player in transforming compliance with legal regulations into an enhanced competitive business advantage by offering a total systems approach to achieving performance excellence. The applied research presented in this paper suggests a conceptual framework to guide the process of transforming the organization’s products and services to improve performance in terms of the expanded definition of sustainability. The educational aspects of sustainability are emphasized throughout this article. This framework may also be helpful to those in higher education faced with the challenge of reforming engineering education in the Engineering Management graduate curriculum.
A mini case study is discussed to illustrate the framework and suggest several managerial implications. The mini case tells the story of an electrical power distribution organization that expanded their customer provided services to include broadband and telephone technologies. They currently have 10,000 broadband customers and are operating this business segment in the black. Now the organization is exploring smart grid approaches to level load electrical power system demands. The mini case discussed in this article does offer a potential contribution. When addressing sustainability for a single organization in the supply chain, a best strategy for the local organization may be destabilizing for the entire supply chain. This suggests that sustainability strategies should be evaluated from a total systems perspective. Extrapolating to managerial implications one might conclude that Systems Engineering and Engineering Management disciplines could make a significant contribution in resolving the “sustainability” debate in higher education.
The purpose of this applied research is to: 1) Explore the emerging emphasis on the triple bottom line as organizations strive to survive in this turbulent decade; 2) Use relevant literature and the authors’ practical experience to suggest a conceptual framework that could guide organizations through a revolutionary process that involves disruptive or discontinuous changes to processes and business models; 3) Reflect implications of these sustainability transformation on Engineering Management Programs; and 4) Use the case of Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (BTES) to illustrate the framework and show positive results for the discontinuous changes that have occurred. Throughout this discussion the authors strive to use the BTES experience as a benchmark for reinforcing the systematic approach to innovation suggested by the conceptual framework; and to suggest that the Engineering Management curriculum may need innovative changes to provide the skills necessary to excel.
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