Almost half of all Americans resolve to change their behavior at the beginning of every year. Would you believe that more than 40% are still sticking to their new routine six months later? According to University of Scranton psychology professor John Norcross, they succeed because they set reasonable goals, enlist support, reward themselves, and renew their efforts whenever they slip up.
This tidbit of information kept coming back to me as the PUBLIC WORKS editors compiled this issue's special report on what lies ahead for the various infrastructure sectors over the year, an analysis dominated by the implications of having elected our first infrastructure-savvy president in decades.
In the 1950s, President Dwight Eisenhower's desire to enhance national security during the Cold War led to the construction of the world's largest highway system. The investment was greater than President Franklin Roosevelt's in the Works Projects Administration. Fifty years later, President Barack Obama is poised to pick up where his predecessors left off. His respect for infrastructure's role in providing Americans with one of the world's highest standards of living is likely to give managers more resources to improve, upgrade, and maintain these aging assets.
At press time, it remained to be seen whether funding would be through the states or directly to cities and counties with approved projects. Either way, you can start implementing actions that will reap benefits regardless of what happens at the federal level. For example:
Get green. Use the new president's commitment to reducing the nation's carbon footprint to promote how your operations contribute to communitywide sustainability goals. Your department is probably more environmentally friendly than other city, county, or state department because it's had to be; reclamation, for example, makes the taxpayer's investment in streets and roads go farther than using new materials.
Reward your team's efforts with positive publicity. Reporters love an engineer who explains the benefits of complex technology in layman's terms. When they've found a source of reliable information they're more open to story suggestions and more open-minded when operations are called into question. If you feel you don't have what it takes to be an effective liaison, assign the job of working with local media to a personable employee.
Get hip. Look for young talent where young talent “lives”: on the Internet. A public works director who's spent a decade looking at how to replace retiring baby boomers told Managing Editor Victoria Sicaras that many departments spend most of their advertising budget on newspaper ads — even though 85% of graduates start and end their job searches online.
Occasional lapses are inevitable whenever you're trying to make a major change. When it happens, don't spend your valuable time and energy beating up yourself or your team; just forgive and continue. And never hesitate to let us know how you're doing.
Wishing you the best year yet.
Next month we'll look at one public works director's experience with energy-based performance contracting.