Heather and Ross discussed how to deal with the “sawtooth” phenomenon in administering infrastructure asset management in the utility system.
Heather maintained that having more leaders getting involved in the asset management process can help deal with the “sawtooth” problem. She said that when more people, especially those who are actually making decisions, are involved they are able to see how asset management is helping their system.
She added that the more those kinds of people really get bought into asset management, the more the organization will change, and change in behavior to try to counteract the sawtooth problem and not get discouraged by what’s going on.
New Zealand’s asset management experience
Ross said that it took ten years with three election cycles for New Zealand to achieve the process to deal with the “sawtooth” problem.
He recalled that what’s been very helpful was running a workshop with some training for the new board or council or governance body elected; taking them through how asset management works and what the impacts are.
Ross revealed they had been running post-election workshops with elected officials across New Zealand and Australia. I think it’s been really effective – giving them the tools to ask the right questions of the staff or the team, he said.
Ross shared one leaders’ feedback saying: “Hey well if we defer this, there’s going to be a lot of pain down the track.”
Nevertheless, he shared they also deal with some officials like some government members in New Zealand who have platforms and have pre-agendas and won’t listen and just want to do whatever they wanted to do. And people have opinions about these leaders that might be less than favorable.
Ross says further:
What we’ve found is generally, when you provide them with good workshop training, maybe two or three training sessions, which is part of a program of training for them in their roles as elected officials, almost all of them come on board.
They can see the value of asset management because deep down inside they know they have to serve their communities.
And so we’ve had a lot of success with that. At the end of the day, you do need to engage with your elected officials. That is the bottom line. That’s how the system of government works across the western world.
And so as infrastructure asset management professionals in the field, we got to be able to present information in a way that they can make good decisions but also not hide the risks if they make poor decisions.
So if they make a decision that increases risk, which can increase the cost or is going to create a lot of long-term problems, then they need to know about that and be really aware of it and own the problem. Don’t hide it from them.
ABOUT THE PHOTO:
Cape Palliser Lighthouse is a Lighthouse at Cape Palliser in the Wellington Region of the North Island of New Zealand. It is owned and operated by Maritime New Zealand. The light was built in 1897 and was originally fueled by oil. Wikipedia