Are You Prepared to Catch Your Big Fish?

By Jim Solich, lead engineer and project manager at EFI Group

PHOTO: Jim Solich and nephew, Charlie, and their 47-inch Musky. His son, Jared, netted and took the picture before putting it back in the water.

I’ve caught my share of fish over the years, but there is one effort that’s still on my bucket list – I call it the Trophy Musky project.

The Muskellunge – also known as the Musky – is typically found in the larger northern rivers and lakes of Ontario, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and the like. This fish is very fast, strong and is known for acrobatic leaps out of the water and intense headshaking to rid itself of a hook.

In fact, the Musky is called the “fish of ten thousand casts” because of the difficulty level of hooking one and then actually reeling it in.

While I was pleased (understatement) to have caught a 47-inch Musky several years ago, my Trophy Musky project has me after an even bigger goal. Specifically, I’ve got my sights set on catching a Musky 50 inches or more.
Of course, going after a fish as big and powerful as this gets you thinking about a lot of things – about your approach, your plan and even the level-headedness of your goal. The satisfaction of the process itself and the accomplishment of your latest catch, are relevant to work I do every day in the “real” world of manufacturing projects.

In fact, many of the challenges my manufacturing clients deal with parallel those that my fishing partners and I face. Starting with the very basics: determining the scope of the project.

In fishing, scope matters more than you might think because it greatly influences the perspectives of those who are throwing out lines. For example:

Are we going fishing for a weekend, maybe catch a fish? Or, is the scope a decades long quest for the big one – and then the bigger one?

In manufacturing, there are definitely projects that have that “weekend” mentality – things that aren’t quite that important and that we’ll get to “sometime.” Then, there are those projects involving large capital investments and risk where the timeline is a year or more.

What’s important is not to just know the scope of work, but to truly understand it. In both fishing and manufacturing poor scope planning prevents the team from being adequately prepared to achieve the desired result.

Which brings us to objectives. As I mentioned before, I’ve caught what I thought were big Musky, and now I’m pushing for a goal that’s even bigger. In manufacturing, the same thing holds. Manufacturers need to think long term. They need to know their big fish of today – and their big fish of tomorrow. This is why successful companies can set annual goals that perfectly position them for achieving their larger, long-term vision. Without this growth, without pushing from one goal to the next, companies stagnate.

The relationship between objectives and scope also becomes crystal clear when viewed through the fishing metaphor. It’s not likely you’re going to catch a 50-inch Musky during that weekend venture that doesn’t have much determination or accountability behind it. But if you understand your goal and have aligned the scope of work to be able to accomplish that goal, that’s when success occurs. It is never something that simply happens, it is always planned for.

Once the goal is committed to and the scope is aligned, all projects come down to the details. On the lake or river, it’s the boat, the motor, tackle, leaders and knots and lures. Each one of these is important, but some are absolutely critical to meeting the objective and others are clearly not. Manufacturers, too, need to understand which details are important and which are critical if costs are to be kept down and the project efficient.

Of course, what differs most between my pursuit of the Musky and what manufacturers need to accomplish with every project are the cost implications. It’s one thing to explain additional expenses to a spouse who is questioning the latest UPS “mystery box” that has appeared on the doorstep, and quite another to justify overages to owners and investors who are missing their metrics or other opportunities because of insufficient planning.

The bottom line is this: We all have a big fish we want to catch – whether it’s a Musky or the next level of profitability. How well we plan for it is often the single determining factor as to whether we achieve it or not.

If you’re considering your big fish of 2016 and want to leverage our industry-wide experience in helping manufacturers achieve greater profitability with less risk, contact Jim Solich at

We hired EFI Group to help us figure out a project and scope it, and I felt confident they would keep a keen eye on it. They had to deliver quickly and they did it well. They are especially good at project management when you don’t have the resources to do it internally. Reliability is the word I would use to describe EFI Group.
— Coatings Industry Professional
EFI Group is timely. We’ve had a lot of situations when we’ve been in a time crunch and they’ve responded very quickly. They are detail oriented and efficient. They’re a good group of people who also have a lot of strength in pre-engineering — the thought process to get to preliminary design and making sure we’ve investigated all the potential asks of a project to ensure we didn’t miss anything. They have great attention to detail up front which is very important to any project because having that detail-oriented deep dive into the pre-engineering phase sets the stage for the success of the rest of the project, making the process smoother and making it much easier to keep the project on schedule and on budget.
— Mike Quigley, Engineering & Maintenance Manager, Food Industry
I’ve worked with EFI Group for a while, so I know they have a good, knowledgeable staff. We know we’re going to get the results from them we expect. From my interactions with all the different EFI team members I’ve worked with, I know they have knowledge across many industries. Equally, I never have to follow up with EFI Group and, in some cases, they keep me on track.
— Ryan Fredsall, General Manager, Pacer Minerals LLC
We view EFI Group as a team that can dimensionalize our capability to execute projects. We can articulate what it is we want to do and they can take that input and run with it without much intervention from us. They’re able to move a project along independently and only engage us when it’s time to bring us up to speed or get more input to drive a project to conclusion. That’s one of the reasons I view them as an excellent contractor.
— Environmental Engineering Industry Professional
EFI Group has good engineers and good customer service. We know when we get an EFI engineer on a project, we’re going to a get a good job from them and it’s been a productive relationship for both of us — I genuinely like the people.
— Corporate Director, Project Management in Food & Flavors Industry
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