Crucial Soft Skills for Engineering Services – Part 1
When faced with the need for additional technical staff, to accomplish short-term project goals, companies that seek to supplement their own personnel generally focus on the work at hand that needs to be executed. But what about the many and varied other factors that influence effectively adding help to their existing workforce? Beyond the obvious needed technical skills and related project experience, what should a hiring company look for in their supplemental service provider? At Optimation, one of our goals is to view each and every project, though it may be but a small service contract, as an opportunity to build a relationship that will remain after the current job is completed.
To do this, here are some of the softer skills we strive to bring to our service work:
- Engaging in crisp, concise communication, that is effective and happens in a timely manner. One of the keys to this dimension is to capture in writing and publish for confirmation the topic(s) that were discussed and the agreed to action plan, for verification with the customer. This prevents 2 possible unwanted outcomes, either a task is not completed by either the contract or the client; or, both parties engage in completing the task, and waste is created.
- Asking respectful clarifying questions. We have learned that it is unwise to make assumptions when it comes to the details of a particular project. So, we coach our people to not be shy about asking properly worded questions for clarification. We want to avoid doing anything on our projects that doesn’t add value, because of an error of omission due to us not inquiring after specific project detail.
- Investigating, understanding, and working within client’s established processes and procedures. This issue speaks to the trap of providing good content, but not in the correct form. What we want to avoid here is the potential for rework, if our work product was produced using a tool, template, or method that is different from our client’s standard.
- Clarifying goals and providing what is asked for (other possible improvement items may be suggested as options, but never pursued without client approval). While the Scope of Work is typically a foundational piece of a service contract, we find that it is highly likely that some value-adding features may be discovered by going beyond the stated scope and asking what else our customer is trying to accomplish. We frequently find that beyond the “Musts” of the project deliverables may be a list of “Wants” that our client would be interested in, if he had more data. An agreement as to how to identify and pursue these options helps to quantify and potentially deliver additional performance or cost benefits.
- Agreeing to roles and responsibilities, along with project expectations. After we understand the Scope of Work, the next most prevalent contract related definition is around what types of services we are to provide, the span of the content we are being asked to produce, and when and how our customer would like us to deliver our work product. A clear, written summary of these items ensures we have accounted for the right participating people, with needed skill sets, a task list, and other supporting requests (typically having to do with work methods and procedures). This is one of the project areas where we try to be sensitive to our customer’s in house participation and capabilities, and attempt to avoid any stepping on of toes. Our experience indicates that we should always have this as a topic as we prepare our quote and then kick off a new project; we know that early adoption sets our project off on the right foot and helps avoid either missed tasks, tasks that in the client’s eyes, aren’t worth paying for, or the possibility of offending a client participant and compromising project team effectiveness.
We’ll share some more of these soft skills that make a big impact in tomorrow’s blog post.