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It's Hard to be a Pro

It's Damned Hard to be a Pro
By Archie H. Rice

Archie Rice

CH2M HILL is an amazing organization. It has the finite written organizational structure of a P&ID; and yet, in operation, it has all the characteristics of an amoeba. Teams are formed; they perform their function; they are replaced by new teams; and the organization goes on and continues to perform, and to perform in an extremely competent manner. By carefully considered design, not by accident, CH2M HILL is an organization of professionals, owned and operated by professionals dedicated to rendering professional services. For this reason, our success or failure depends not on the organizational structure, but rather on the extent to which individuals within that structure fulfill their professional responsibilities.

In the field of athletics, it is relatively simple to recognize the professionals; they perform an assigned task for money. But, they are required to do much more than simply perform an assigned task. The professionals are individuals who continually demonstrate a total responsibility to that performance. It is this dedication that raises them above their peers in the eyes of the witnesses. When, for whatever reason, their performance is no longer satisfactory in the eyes of those witnesses, they soon slip from the professional ranks. Recognition of' this fact serves as a continued spur to those professional athletes who might otherwise relax in the fulfillment of their professional responsibility.

The CH2M HILL professionals have a much tougher job. As a substitute for the spur of coach and fans, they must be their own monitor, their own master, and their own critic. They must critically analyze all that they see, all that they hear, all that they feel, and most of all must be critical of themselves if they are to fulfill their responsibility to their clients and to the firm. The CH2M HILL organization can do no more than to provide framework within which the professional can efficiently fulfill this responsibility.

What is this responsibility? No planner's plan, no surveyor's map, no economist's analysis, no scientist's investigation, no engineer's design is an end unto itself. Until that effort can be converted into an action or a usable three-dimensional unit, the professional's results are of less value than the paper spoiled by its preparation. With this in mind, it is obvious that true professionals must be more than technicians; they must, in addition, be at least salesmen, diplomats, and politicians. They become legal professionals by examination. They become real professionals by trial under fire and error in action. They stay alive professionally by having guts enough to make decisions, wisdom enough to recognize when they are wrong, and common sense enough to avoid the catastrophic mistake.

In the creation of things to enhance man's well-being, the professionals are not members of the orchestra; they are the leaders of the bands whether assigned or self-appointed. The key to identifying the true professional is the identification of the extent to which they accept, or rather the extent to which they seek out their responsibilities.

The planner who develops a plan that satisfies everyone and at the same time carries no program for implementation has failed his professional responsibility. The engineer who permits the client to expand the project without a realistic increase in project budget has equally failed in his professional responsibility. The project manager who does not complete the project on time because the client, the supplier, or his associates did not fulfill their responsibilities on time also has failed his professional responsibility.

The individual who is convinced that he has an idea for the improvement of CH2M HILL has a professional responsibility not to accept "no" for an answer until such time as he has assured himself that "no" has been based on a full evaluation of the facts. He has a professional responsibility to recognize that we are an organization of individuals, and this includes the people who are in the final decision-making positions. The easiest way to make a decision regarding something that is new, regarding something that is different, regarding anything that is a change is to say "no." At that point, nothing happens; there is no responsibility. If one says "yes" to change, he immediately becomes a party to the change; he may get some glory, but the probabilities are that all he has done is develop some problems.

A recognition of this situation is incumbent upon everyone in the organization that he who has confidence in the suggestion that he has made puts his reputation on the line and pushes it on through to some type of logical conclusion. As a professional, he is not entitled to accept inaction. He cannot hide behind a simple "no," and put his idea in a drawer to later be brought forth with a sanctimonious "I told you so."

The true professional is the conductor; in addition, he normally writes the orchestration. He/She, and only he/she, has the responsibility for the quality of the music. There is no way that he can avoid responsibility for the final performance. CH2M HILL needs true professionals, all 1,800 of us today, all however many tomorrow. True professionals are the life-blood of CH2M HILL. True professionals create quality work; and quality work is the heart, liver, and lungs of our business. Yes, it's damned hard to be a Pro. But we are blessed with a professional team, a team that has demonstrated top performance, a team of winners.