It is required of our Bachelor's in Engineering to design a process plant for a given product and tonnage. The nature of design engineering requires that this be done by a team of professionals. The program therefore attempts to recreate this industrial scenario within our final year. This year's design requirement was to come up with a detailed design for a gold processing plant to extract the metal out of a refractory ore. I will talk about it in detail in a different installment! Today's post is on the lessons about group work and team cooperation especially when it comes to Chemical Engineering Design. So read on....
The first major lesson i got was that we are all different. As obvious as it sounds, it is still worth mentioning. These differences bear our strengths and weaknesses. And the success (profitability, safety, sustainability) of any processing plant lies in the early detection and homogenization of these differences. For example my group consisted of Silas, - a natural born workhorse whose work ethic sometimes covered for the other group members who could not be available all the time. His weakness for spending money was complimented by Gift's ability to budget and keep a keen eye on the financials of the entire project. Tracy's social skills where instrumental when negotiating was required. Due to circumstances beyond her control more often than not she had other commitments which is where Silas came in to fill for her. I was in between everyone, and sticking everything together so that we could continue to work as a team. I have deliberately focused on the social aspects alone and not the technical roles everyone else played. This I have done to illustrate the highly social nature of the design group work. The ultimate success was in the complementary aspects of our characters. Knowing these early I found to be imperative for any group leader who is to head a design team for any processing facility.
Lesson 2 - Conflict resolution
It is no doubt that conflicts will arise - primarily due to our differences. How we handle these in the group is as imperative as the design aspects of the facility. I found this to be a major requirement when it came to coming up with a working facility in the time that we are supposed to. Conflict resolution tactics that worked included arbitration and outright communication of grievances.
Lesson 3 - Shared Vision
It is probably the single most important role the leader has to make to instill a common vision in his/her group members' mindsets. A shared vision and goal instill urgency and responsibility. Our single vision was to come up with a product worthy of showcasing at and international showcase. And that we did. Our prototype was showcased at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and together with other projects, won gold for the university and attracted the attention of high ranking dignitaries. This was a result of a common vision that was shared by the group members instilled by the supervisor right from the onset.
Lesson 4 - "Let's just do it!"
This became a motto at one point in the design chronology. Sometimes tasks would be handed over and some would not do them. To maintain fluidity sometimes we just had to cover up. We just had to do it. And we did. The lesson was sometimes - you just need to cover up for the slower blocks of your projects to meet your deadlines.
In a later installment i will give more detail on the project itself. If you have any questions, additions, queries and modifications, please feel free to express yourself in the comments section.!!