A group of students and a professor smiling in a classroom

Synergy and Strategy

By: Jainam Gandhi, Master of Engineering Management

This article is a reflection of what I learned from the Master of Engineering Management capstone course taught by Doug Schumer, associate teaching professor of engineering design.

Graphics saying synergy, strategy, success

Why the need?

The hallmark of excellence of any leader is the ability to build and lead high-performing teams. These teams are a necessity for a rapidly changing and highly competitive business landscape. Teams must be agile, adaptive, and focused on delivering value to the customer. An engineering manager guides these teams to achieve remarkable outcomes and transform innovative ideas into impactful solutions. But what is the secret to unlocking the true potential of any team? The answer lies in the winning combination of synergy and strategy. Engineering managers can drive their teams toward success by fostering a collaborative environment where individuals can thrive and applying strategic thinking to guide decision-making.

Harnessing The Power of Teams

The power of teams. All of us know more than any of us... Pie chart depicitng the universe primarily being "what we don't know that we don't know"

As individuals, we have limited information on “What We Know,” and most of our lives go behind chasing “What We Know, What We Don’t Know.” The diversity of perspectives and experiences within a team creates a rich tapestry of knowledge. Synergy is the magical ingredient of every high-performing team. It’s portrayed when diverse talents and expertise unite to solve complex problems. These high-performing teams believe in the fundamental principle that “all of us know MORE than any of us know.” If we harness a team’s full potential, we can leverage and tap into the unknown realm of “What We Don’t Know That We Don’t Know.”

The question is how to harness this collective ability.

Harnessing the collective ability of a diverse team requires deliberate oversight. Below are a few suggestions on how we can do so:

  • Creating a culture of trust and open communication
  • Encouraging transparency and active listening
  • Recognizing and valuing each individual’s expertise
  • Fostering a sense of ownership and accountability
  • Facilitating knowledge sharing and collaborative brainstorming sessions
  • Embracing continuous learning and professional development
  • Proactively identifying and addressing knowledge gaps
  • Celebrating diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives
  • Encouraging the team to think creatively and explore new ideas

Strategic Business Analysis and Planning

Strategic analyses and planning are the compass that guides teams to success by comprehensively analyzing internal and external factors that influence our projects and ensuring decisions are made with foresight.

Through our capstone course, we explored some powerful frameworks, such as political, economic, social, and technological (PEST) analysis and Porter’s Five Forces Model, for evaluating the external environment. We also delved into internal capability analysis using strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis and value chain analysis. These tools help us identify opportunities and challenges, allowing us to craft strategic plans to position our teams.

Functional analysis is a crucial pillar of the strategy. It contains research about ongoing trends in engineering, marketing, and finance. This process assists in setting a benchmark for the team. It also improves our ability to deliver results that exceed market expectations.

The strategic alternatives review (SAR) analysis provides a framework for evaluating strategic options and making informed choices.

It highlights the importance of implementation planning as the bridge between strategy and execution. We used tools like analytical hierarchy process (AHP) to execute the decision-making process.

Finally, effective project planning entails scoping, scheduling, and performance monitoring. Engineering managers can make timely adjustments by establishing clear metrics and monitoring project progress. Through this effective planning, we can translate our strategic decisions into tangible actions and ensure the successful delivery of projects.

About this course

A group of students and a professor smiling in a classroom

Dr. Schumer, my classmates, and me capturing a milestone.

Credit: Jainam Gandhi

This capstone course is a culminating academic experience of various engineering management courses, from technical expertise to financial considerations, which I’m discussing here. The capstone course emphasized the importance of understanding and navigating the complex interactions between technology, finance, organizational dynamics, and societal impact.

Final Thoughts

By implementing this winning formula of fostering a collaborative environment that encourages innovation and applying strategic thinking to guide our teams’ efforts, we can drive our teams to new heights and deliver solutions that make a meaningful impact on our world.

Read more from Jainam here.