By Justin Smith, PE

The start of a new year can be exciting, refreshing, and invigorating. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and to celebrate the wins. As this issue of Civil + Structural Engineer Magazine features the Yearbook of Engineer Achievement Award winners, we recognize some impressive accomplishments.

The start of the new year is also a time to set intentions and the direction for the year. So, amid celebrating the wins and reflecting, many of us find ourselves faced with uncertainty and numerous challenges.  Whether it’s the great resignation, recruitment and retention, or an increase in operational efficiency necessary to remain competitive in the face of record-high inflation levels, 2022 is laden with opportunity for those organizations that can set themselves apart during periods of uncertainty. Despite these challenges and many others, people continue to succeed, and I found myself asking: “What sets people and organizations apart?”

So, I investigated the research to determine what it generally says about the topic. Studies indicate that leadership, strong communication, innovation, change orientation, and conflict management all contribute to project and organizational success. But how does that translate to us and the work we do every day—how do we implement these constructs to drive organizational success?

  1. Know and understand your organization. What are your values and what drives leadership and the employees to perform at an elite level? How do your processes embody these values? The organizations that link everyday pursuits and activities to the overarching values of the organization demonstrate increased overall effectiveness.  It is not enough to communicate your values on websites or in an employee handbook.  The day-to-day work and the processes and tools that you use to deliver value to your stakeholders and clients must be linked to the overall reason why the organization exists.
  2. Be willing to learn, train, and grow, perhaps in unconventional ways. Continue to develop skill sets and have a platform for this. Many industry leaders are looking for training opportunities to ensure they are practicing cutting edge skills, both technical and non-technical, and the organizations that thrive are those that recognize the need for training in the skills that are linked to organizational success.
  3. Message and position. Once you have a strong identity and a way to share this within your organization, share it with others. Having innovative offerings and training can be instrumental in recruiting and retention of strong employees and these solid practices combined with skilled employees will lead to better projects with desired clients.
  4. Evolve as needed. Be resilient, open, forward thinking, and responsive.  Often, especially during times of uncertainty, the organization’s ability to adapt to the evolving marketplace is more important than the organization’s ability to “get it right” out of the gate.

As we enter this new year, let’s celebrate the opportunity to head into uncharted territory. It’s not an easy task to work though the above-mentioned areas, but it will be transformational, contribute to ongoing success, and create more resilient organizations and an overall more resilient AEC landscape.  Increased resilience will create new opportunities for people to contribute to the industry and will provide renewed confidence to organizational leaders that they can not only weather difficult times but that they can thrive on the challenges they bring. Investing in yourself and your teams to build on your strengths and expand skills will serve as a way to set yourself apart for clients, potential employees, current employees, and other stakeholders and we welcome the opportunity to support you in your journeys.


Justin Smith, PE, is a consultant and advisor with Zweig Group that specializes in Project Management training and advisory services.  As a member of Zweig’s training and advisory services team, Justin helps organizations bring clarity to expectations and processes in order to reinforce and enhance the Project Management function and strengthen the mid-career organizational core.  Justin can be reached at jsmith@zweiggroup.com.

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