September , 1999

Change - Making the Most of It


Do you remember the slide-rule? Or perhaps more to the point - did you ever use one?

I am perhaps among the last generation of engineers for whom the slide-rule was once both an essential tool and a symbol of the profession. Then along came the hand-held calculator with its increasing sophistication, turning the slide-rule for the most part into an historic relic. I realize that there may be the occasional slide-rule diehard out there. Generally speaking, however, I don't see a very profitable future in slide-rule manufacturing and I hope that those who were in that business have found another product line. In other words, they've adapted to change - a topic I would like to discuss in this column.

We hear a great deal about change these days. As engineers and geoscientists we are very much aware of changing technology whether as the users or managers of new technology. More than that, many of you are the inventors, innovators and adaptors of various processes, techniques or products.

Change All Around Us

Change is occurring in other areas too. Our organizational structures are changing. Hardly a day passes without an announcement of some major corporate merger, takeover or new alliances which may create larger entities or may mean change as redundant structures are pared down; corporate cultures are integrated and blended; and missions are altered. The buzzword a few years ago was downsizing, as private and public entities sought to do more with less, or tasks which government agencies once performed in-house were outsourced or subcontracted to other players. We are called upon to adapt to changing cultural diversity, globalization and shifting client expectation. The list of changes, like change itself, is endless.

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is given credit for suggesting "that there is nothing permanent except change". Change was central also to the thinking of the ancient Chinese who considered it the essence of life. The secret, Chinese sages suggested, lay in recognizing and accepting change, reading its current and working with it to one's advantage.

A more recent piece of advice on change was offered by a former APEGGA President when he received an honorary degree from the University of Alberta. Gerald Maier, P.Eng., told the U of A spring convocation: "Don't fear change. You may be apprehensive about it, you should respect it, but don't fear it. Most often, change ends up being beneficial even though it may be a little painful at the time."

Informed Decisions

I believe a key to easing that pain and worry lies in making informed decisions about how we change and how we face change. That's as true for the judgments we make for our organizations and within our workplace, as it is for individual decisions and career decisions.

In my preceding column I noted how APEGGA is influenced by what happens around us. I believe that for our Association an important response to change has been the adoption of a Continuing Professional Development program which is both a change in itself and a means of facilitating and encouraging adjustment to change. It is now two years since the first group of APEGGA members was informed that they had until September of 2000 to keep track and build up a record of 240 Professional Development Hours (PDHs) and that they had to maintain that level on a three-year rolling total basis in order to remain in good standing with the Association.

As you will be aware, there are numerous activities which qualify for PDHs. One way is through professional development days organized by APEGGA. Two packages of such sessions are planned for Nov. 22 and Nov. 29, respectively in Calgary and Edmonton. They will build upon the successes of similar events already held, including one organized in conjunction with our Annual Conference in Calgary in April. Many other seminars of a technical, managerial, professional or skill-enhancement nature sponsored by technical societies and other providers also qualify for PDHs.

Employer Support

It requires an individual's determination to turn up at such a session. However, it becomes all the easier if an employee is aware that he or she has the active support (including time off) and encouragement of employers to attend such events.

Some of the knowledge and insight gained may have an immediate payback for the employer, while other benefits may be more intangible in terms of employee self-esteem and professionalism.

Many business and professional leaders speak of managing change. The approach they take in encouraging their staff to prepare for change will demonstrate that they are prepared to walk their own talk.

There may be so-called experts in change but we all live through change. No matter where we happen to be on an organizational chart, we all have a shared responsibility not only to cope with change but to try to reap its benefits.

Change is upon us whether we like it or not. The challenge is to get with it - the alternative is to get left behind.

Home | Past PEGGs | Contact | Ad Rates