The tensions between Engineering and the Business

 Tension is a balancing act

The word tension tends to carry a negative connotation. This is especially true when trying to accomplish an important task. However, tension doesn’t always have to be bad. For example, the art of walking a tightrope could not occur without tension. This tension creates a balance allowing people to perform magnificent acts like walk walk across mountains or over waterfalls on a 1/2 inch metal wire.

Balancing isn’t always easy though, often times performers are seen with bars to help them maintain their balance. These tools ease the tension making the task easier to execute. The idiom of walking a tightrope even transcends into the world of politics describing how politicians balance two opposing views. Now, it takes its place in our world of business and engineering.


Imagine what things would look like without one or all of those objects functioning properly? The tension between the objects is necessary in order for everything to operate.

What about tension in the world of business?

Is there tension that exist in a business?  There better be, or that business is dead. As with the tension above, it’s not all bad, in fact, tensions that exist between the business and engineering, if properly maintained (many times by IT) will allow the organization to achieve maximum efficiency. It is when these tensions get out of bounds that problems can occur.

As noted in the article Josh Holusha wrote for the NY Times, MBA’s and Engineers need each other, the “beancounters” business people and “propellerheads” engineers were challenged to work together to better understand the tension both sides have within the overall context of delivering a product.  The process of Design and Manufacturing are complicated but so are competitive economic forces.

Good communication and the proper solution set are two of the key ingredients in helping your company manage the tension and use it in a way to maximize throughout.  If you are a product decision maker, what tensions do you see as the biggest obstacle between you and your counterparts?  What methods and solutions are you using to leverage the tension to your advantage?

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