Mission: Engineering a Stronger Profession

June 2014

Mission: Engineering a Stronger Profession


PRESIDENT ROBERT GREEN, P.E., F.NSPEOn May 25, 2014, NSPE celebrated the 80th anniversary of the meeting that led to the creation of our Society. What began as a dream of David Steinman, P.E., has grown from a group of four state societies to 52. NSPE has become and will remain the voice of the professional engineer and recognized advocate of engineering licensure. In the last 80 years, NSPE has helped facilitate the establishment of licensing laws in all states and territories, has enhanced the image and reputation of the professional engineer, and has been an advocate to the public and government for professional licensure, not for personal gain, but rather to better protect the public health, safety, and welfare. As David Steinman said himself many years ago, we can confidently say again today that NSPE is actively working to make “engineering a finer, nobler, and more satisfying profession for those who come after us.”

Last year, President Dan Wittliff, P.E., F.NSPE, began asking some important questions, essentially, what was it that NSPE needed to do to continue to be relevant to its members? The process continued this past year, and I am certain it will continue in the future. Using the association management book Race for Relevance as our touchstone, we began the process of examining NSPE to determine why we are relevant to our members and what the Society should be in the future to remain relevant at a time when many organizations are competing for the attention of engineers. We were in effect beginning our strategic planning process but doing it in a somewhat different order. Our road to relevance has not always been easy, and more difficult choices will have to be made in the future. There are some things that we no longer need to do, or should do. As we look to the future we will do so following the recently adopted strategic direction document.

Strategic planning is often viewed negatively because it brings about images of boring documents that are promptly placed on shelves and not looked at again until it is time for revision. That is not what we are after and not what we need. Our intent is that NSPE’s strategic direction document and the strategic plan that will be presented to the House of Delegates in July will be at the forefront of every decision NSPE makes. What we will do is exactly what I said in these pages in April: “We will remain committed to being recognized as the authoritative expert in licensure, ethics, and professional practice issues; to promoting licensure and assisting individuals in becoming licensed; and to protecting and enhancing the value of licensure and opportunities for the PE.”

The most difficult task is deciding what NSPE will not do. We have done many things, and we have done them well; but do we need to continue to do them? Are there better ways we can spend our precious resources—the time, talent, and money of our members? In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, “3 Myths That Kill Strategic Planning,” the author points out that “[P]roductivity is about getting things done. Strategic thinking is about getting the right things done well.” That also means leaving some things undone—things that we could do and do well but things that are not as critical for our relevance.

Our strategic plan will become part of our operational DNA as we pursue specific objectives. These objectives came from listening to members and are the only ones that make a difference for our members. They are objectives that NSPE can do better than anyone else and that our members cannot do by themselves. Some of these include:

  • Advocacy—supporting PE issues both at the federal level and, in cooperation with the states, at the state level;

  • Content—making resources available to our members through videos, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the NSPE website, and the Engineering Body of Knowledge;

  • Collaboration—working with our state societies and other societies to further the value and importance of the PE license;

  • Engaging our members—providing many opportunities to members to get involved at local, state, and national levels; and

  • Professional and leadership development—providing a new slate of 15 hours of free professional development, leadership training at our annual meetings, hands-on leadership through our committees and task forces, and remaining the recognized leader for engineering ethics.

So, while there are still more changes to come, rest assured that they will be carried out with our strategic directions in mind, they will be member-driven, transparent, and data-based. We are engaged in a never-ending process of continuous improvement and remaining relevant to our members and our profession.

In July I will end what has been one of the most rewarding jobs of my professional career—being your president. I have had the opportunity to meet some great people, learn many new things, and represent one of the engineering profession’s finest organizations. Although time and resources did not allow me to do everything I wanted to do—I suspect that is something I have in common with all those who came before me—I am happy with what we, as a team, were able to accomplish. It has been a privilege and an honor.