Pastor Dave gives a sermon...

Retired Emerson vice president of marketing, Dave Beckman, pointed out in his plenary talk today, "Engineer Revolution,"  that being a Presbyterian minister has taught him to make sure he has three points to cover in any talk. These three issues, Beckman said, are the clear pointers to the revolution in engineering that is happening throughout the world, and not just in process automation. "Extraordinary performance," he said, "requires three elements." First, there must be a Test - Where there is no looming test, there is no need to do anything different. Second, you must have the Technology - It takes a powerful tool to enable a quantum leap. And third, you have to have the Talent - Knowledge based cross collaborating teams who understand the challenge and employ the technology. "It's about creating a revolution in your own space," Beckman said.    Global demand for technology and resources is growing at historic highs. It is highly unlikely that the process industry will follow housing off the cliff, he said. He noted that not only will the expansion in Asia-Pacific not threaten North American jobs, there is plenty of industry and capacity here for the foreseeable future. Things are not entirely rosy, however. Project capital costs are at all time highs, and the price of oil has a built-in risk price premium of about $25/bbl over the actual price of oil. So, $50/bbl oil is selling for $75/bbl. This is entirely due to the unsettled conditions in the prime oil producing countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America. The Canadian oilsand fields appear to be part of the answer to the projected $100/bbl price of oil, but while exploration costs are low, extraction costs are very high. We are globally stretched, and it is becoming nearly impossible to find the easy-to-refine sweet crudes. Most stocks are now high sulfur and highly acidic, requiring further refining and processing. Engineering and Construction firms (EPCs) are confirming this changing landscape, as yesterday's keynote from Alan Boeckmann of Fluor showed. So, Beckman noted, the challenge is clear and obvious. The technology is here, as well, he said. PlantWeb architecture revolutionized an industry and made the technologies necessary to work in this globalized environment not only possible, but easy, as well. "But," Beckman said, "we face two key issues going forward. We have increasingly complex technology necessary to run our manufacturing operations, and we have an aging workforce unequipped to make fundamental changes to the process." "We've shifted away from a labor based economy," Beckman said. "As Peter Drucker said, "˜You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you; you cannot escape the results of your thoughts.'" Beckman went on to  note that in the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins, one of the key differences separating great companies from those mired in mediocrity was their culture of discipline. "It is time," he said, "to transition from laborer to knowledge worker." Knowledge workers are different, Beckman said. They do not refer to themselves as workers, but as professionals. They identify themselves by their profession rather than who they work for. They are highly mobile, switching employers many times.They are nonhierarchical and they see their job as a life. It isn't money, or freedom, or being listened to, or any of the other major reasons to work that people list that makes a job fun. It is significance. It is the chance to contribute to something important, greater than oneself, and that might even change the world. That's what knowledge workers have wanted, and that's what employers need to give them in the future. Beckman gave some examples of this kind of paradigm shift, from Rochester Utilities to Porsche AG. What gave the latter example a piquancy beyond normal was the presence in the audience of former Porsche CEO Peter Schutz, himself, who became the leader of Porsche in 1981, and by 1987 had rescued the company from the brink of bankruptcy. Schutz is also presenting at Emerson Exchange, and he and his wife came to listen to Dave Beckman's talk. Beckman told the story of how Schutz rescued Porsche, through the metaphor of the incredible string of victories Porsche won at Le Mans from 1981 to 1987. "We are never going to a race we don't expect to win," Schutz is quoted by Beckman as saying. Somehow, Beckman said, we have to bring workers out of the old paradigm of employee as servant, company is master, to a new paradigm where The means of production is knowledge, which is owned by knowledge workers, and instantly available information provides for global outsourcing. People want to be part of something greater than themselves.  They want to do something that makes a positive difference in the world. Most employees do not consider making a profit for themselves, sufficient to satisfy this goal. As Clarence Darrow put it, Beckman quoted, "The shareholder puts his money into the business and the workman his life. The one has as much right as the other to regulate the business."    This takes leadership. Leadership, said Beckman, is influence, nothing more and nothing less. The leader must create the vision and plant the vision. Both leaders and followers resist change if the idea is not theirs. Participation increases ownership. Leadership is ownership. Leadership is following. Leaders, Beckman noted, aren't the lead sled dog. They ride on the back of the sled, guiding the dogs to go where they should. Leadership is character, too. The leader establishes Moral Leadership. The company will take on the character of the leader. The leader's role is to articulate the Values of the organization, Beckman said, and to be the values of the organization. He quoted Bear Bryant, "A leader's character is far more important than his or her skills," and St. Francis of Assisi, "Go and teach values every day and, if necessary, use words." Beckman reiterated his sermon's three points: Unless there is a test, there is no need to change the status quo; it takes technology to compete; and the most important element in the formula is the talent of ordinary people motivated to succeed. "This is an Engineer Revolution," he said, "Are you ready?"