American Society of Civil Engineers

Human Systems EngineeringTM: A Trilogy, Part I: Elephant in the Living Room

by William M. Hayden, Jr., P.E., F.ASCE

Leadership and Management in Engineering, Vol. 4, No. 2, April 2004, pp. 61-71, (doi:

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Document type: Feature Article
Abstract: Part I of this trilogy presents evidence that we, as professional engineering managers, appear powerless to reliably deliver project outcomes that meet the expectations of clients and other major project stakeholders. Further, we learn that while the forces that drive or restrain project success are common knowledge to the major project stakeholders, nonetheless, with minor exceptions, attempts to overcome these forces appear to consist mainly of proactive legal maneuvering. Thus, it seems common sense to focus on downstream project risk prevention and damage control. The preceding assertions carry no claim of discovery, but as we are painfully aware, are as obvious as an elephant in the living room. The remaining parts II and III of this trilogy are titled “May the Force Be with You: Anatomy of Project Failures,” and “Managing Projects Successfully in a World of Uncertainty.”

ASCE Subject Headings:
Construction management
Engineering firms
Personnel management
Quality control