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Team Talk And Learning Project Management

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.966.1 - 6.966.9



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Paper Authors

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Katherine Carels

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James Howard

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Charles Bersbach

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Debra Larson

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

Session 2630

Team Talk and Learning Project Management

Debra S. Larson, Charles Bersbach, Katherine H. Carels, James Howard Northern Arizona University

1. Introduction

The management of team-based multi-disciplinary engineering projects requires a complex set of skills and talents that can be grouped into four categories: technical, administrative, interpersonal, and personal. Engineers often come to their project management positions with excellent technical skills, but need additional training in the other areas to become effective managers.

“The skill that brings an engineer to prominence and results in promotion into a first management position are not necessarily the skills needed in the new management position.1”

This training often takes place in a more-or-less traditional classroom that focuses on theory with little opportunity for application of knowledge, skill building, and practice2. There are no laboratories (or practicums) for courses in management3. This pedagogical omission is troublesome, particularly when one is attempting to learn the interpersonal skills necessary for effective management of multi-disciplinary technical teams. People, who do not behave in well- defined and repeatable ways, immediately push the theory into the “indeterminate zones of uncertainty, uniqueness, and value conflict4”. And it follows, to “think like a4” manager when working with people in paradoxical cross-functional teams requires a seemingly innate ability to create instinctive strategies and to make spontaneous decisions. This “tacit knowledge5” cannot be mastered solely through the textbook or lecture. A combination of theory and structured practice followed by guided reflection is needed to develop the practical competencies required of a professional skilled in the management of multi-disciplinary project teams.

This paper describes a graduate-level engineering management course that incorporates an intensive practicum designed to build these competencies at the tacit level. In particular, we focus our discussion on the use of a sociolinguistic technique called Team Talk6, which provided a structure for learning about teams by analyzing their verbal processes.

2. Managing Engineering Design

EGR 686 Managing Engineering Design is a graduate-level engineering course offered at Northern Arizona University (NAU) through the College of Engineering and Technology as part of NAU’s newly created Master of Engineering program. The intent of EGR 686 is to introduce engineering students to the basics of design project management. It is specifically geared towards the activities of a front-line manager of a team of engineering designers.

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Carels, K., & Howard, J., & Bersbach, C., & Larson, D. (2001, June), Team Talk And Learning Project Management Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9885

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