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Risk Management – Are Engineers The Problem Or The Solution?

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Innovative Programs - Structure, Delivery, Evaluation

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1056.1 - 13.1056.12



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Paper Authors


John Robertson Arizona State University

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John Robertson is a Professor in the Electronic Systems Department at Arizona State University Polytechnic. He was formerly an executive with Motorola and now participates in many senior technical training programs with the JACMET consortium.

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Joseph Tidwell Arizona State University

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Joe Tidwell is Managing Director of the JACMET consortium for industry technical training. He was formerly with the Boeing company and his current activities include ASEE industry programs and Project Lead-the-Way.

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Ronald Thomas Raytheon

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Ron Thomas manages Raytheon’s Corporate Learning Center. He is an ex-chairman of the JACMET Design group and the Technical Advisory Board.

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William Charlton Boeing

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Bill Charlton is a Senior Engineer at the Boeing Company in Mesa, AZ. He is a graduate of the JACMET Chief Engineer Certificate and now chairs the Technical Advisory Board.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Risk management – are engineers the problem or the solution?


The introduction of new technology exposes projects to many risks. Engineers are the strongest advocates for technology change but since risk and novelty are inextricably linked, that means that engineers are also often the greatest contributors to project risk. The conventional procedures for risk identification and control can be tedious and often trigger remedial action too late. This paper presents an alternative approach that is based on the outcomes of many dialogs with senior engineers in a series of industry short courses. It treats risk as the main source of variation in project metrics and advocates a template to systematically expose the sources, especially risks that are associated with every decision. The techniques of quality control are then used to parameterize and prioritize the risks so they can be proactively managed within a technology project.

Risk – the engineering challenge

The impact of new technology on products as well as the tools to design and sustain them is a familiar feature of engineering today. There have also been substantial changes in the way that high-tech business is carried out. Globalization and outsourcing are familiar terms in their economic context but they have also changed the way in which engineering jobs are structured. We can view current business operations in two categories – steady state and dynamic as shown in figure 1.

Steady state Dynamic

PRODUCTS Production & support Predictable outcomes Six sigma quality Requirement for change PROJECT Potentially outsourced Prototype New plan

New steady state scenario Evaluate

Figure 1. Process to manage change

The requirements for change come from the need for improved products or ways to implement new technology to deliver them. In either case, the process to define and evaluate exactly what has to be changed is invariably organized as a project. Projects should be like children’s stories. They have a beginning, middle and end and have simple, clear content. At least, that’s the intent. Since projects determine the time it takes for a company to have a presence in a new market, success is vital, especially in the

Robertson, J., & Tidwell, J., & Thomas, R., & Charlton, W. (2008, June), Risk Management – Are Engineers The Problem Or The Solution? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3683

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