— Klepper is administrative superintendent for the city of Corpus Christi Water Utilities.Balancing act
Maintaining equilibrium between long-term goals and day-to-day practices.
It's easy to provide great service if price isn't an issue. Conversely, it's easy to keep costs down if you don't care about providing good service. The hard part is satisfying both goals simultaneously.
That's what the water and waste-water utilities of Corpus Christi, Texas, have been working on since 2000, using a tool outlined in the 1996 book The Balanced Scorecard by Robert Kaplan and David Norton. The strategic planning and management method is helping them identify and examine the relationship between the activities necessary to meet their overall vision.
The methodology's underlying principle is that because organizations can't directly influence financial outcomes, financial measures alone shouldn't be used to evaluate effectiveness. Areas where direct management intervention is possible should also be identified and measured.
The utilities, for example, are measuring customer call response and service completion times. Following the methodology, managers use “if-then,” or cause-and-effect, thinking to identify and adjust measures that will continuously improve service.
In wastewater collection, the department considered the factors that impact service and the elements over which managers have some control: “We will achieve timely customer response if enough proficient crews are available to respond to sewer-backup calls at the right time, and if adequate equipment is available, and if calls are promptly dispatched.”
Similarly, “We will increase the reliability of service provided if repairs are first focused on areas with the most frequent problems and if the problem lines are routinely cleaned.”
All of the “if” statements suggest possible performance indicators that help better manage the wastewater collection system.Web Extra
For more information about the balanced scorecard method, visit our article links page.A systematic approach
Finding problematic infrastructure areas before they fail.
Just seven years ago, Corpus Christi, Texas' wastewater staff logged service requests by hand and addressed problems as they occurred. With no formal way to track service calls, it was nearly impossible to pinpoint problematic infrastructure before failures occurred. Since installing an asset management solution, all that users need is the computer-generated work-order history.