Heather finds the “sawtooth” problem as a very interesting issue, which she experienced with utilities she has been working with.
She concludes that Ross is right about the problem. She learned this from Ross when he came three years ago.
She asked Ross to talk about the “sawtooth” problem.
Ross shared that the “sawtooth” problem is an issue they’ve observed in New Zealand and certainly observed in Australia as well.
And that is when an organization starts down the track of asset management. There are usually people who came to get it going, Ross said.
And they’re going to get trained, and they get on with the work, and they bring the organization up to a certain level of capability and capacity and understanding of asset management.
And for many, many organizations in Australia or New Zealand, over a period of time, maybe three or four or five years, that capacity drops off. And then they’re going to get picked up again.
The management or senior engineers or whoever it is will realize, “Hey, we’ve fallen back here.” And they give it another push and up it comes again.
This is the sawtooth problem and it’s simply around the fact that almost always, infrastructure asset management is driven by individuals.
And it’s very, very hard in the early days of it to embed that practice into the organization.
So the individual (or there could be two or three or four individuals in a big organization) give it a really good shove and they get it up to a point but it doesn’t embed into the organizational culture nor into their practices.
And so what happens is when those individuals leave or they would be assigned different roles, asset management just slides back to where it was because the organization as a whole hasn’t bought into it.
When this happens, we can’t conclude that that’s a failure of asset management. Some people would say, “Well we got to a point, we dropped back, we failed.”
No, it’s not a failure. That’s just another observation on organizational dynamics and that’s just the reality of organizational change management.
What we’re finding in New Zealand now is after 18 years down the track there are younger engineers, who 18 years ago started in asset management and are now landing in very senior management positions.
And so you’re starting to get chief engineers and CEOs who just implicitly are asking “Why are we doing this?”
Certainly in the top 80-85 percent of authorities, the bottom 15% is still not committed to infrastructure asset management.
Their management and the board aren’t committed to it regardless of the fact that it’s been a law for 18 years.
So here you’re talking about organizations that can be quite resistant to change despite the years gone by.
So it’s just something you probably will observe because it’s just a very simple part of organizational dynamics. Be aware of it.
Be aware that the way to manage it is to have the commitment from the top to the bottom of the organization.
And it’s like you need to keep training people and keep encouraging them to think a bit differently the way they used to.
Then over time, this methodology, thinking, and managing will just embed itself and become part of their overall business practice.