With election season in full swing and the appointment of the next leader of the United States a mere six months away, our nation’s attention is tuned to television and social media, dissecting the views and every move of the field of hopefuls. We are doing this as well and have noticed something interesting: good campaign strategy has a bit in common with good infrastructure asset management.
At the core, both are exercises in managing multiple, diverse personalities and pieces of information in order to design processes that function as a well-oiled machine. Both efforts involve scarcity of time. So, what can we learn from the Presidential hopefuls about making the most of hours available, managing resources and dealing with the parts and pieces that must come together to make a working whole? A few things come to mind:
Managing Personalities is Just Part of the Game
Running for president is not something one does alone. Each candidate must carefully cultivate their base—supporters, campaign workers and voters who are willing to spread the word and the cause. A large staff must be hired and work together quickly. You will not likely be hiring an army to perform joint use work (though you may wish you could), but as arbiter of a large amount of "constituents" in the form of attachers and utility poles, and as a department that must work hand in hand with others such as engineering and finance, the idea should seem similar.
Ken Mehlman, a prior Presidential campaign manager, explained it to the New York Times this way: "My underlying thesis is that my job wasn’t to be a political genius. My job was to take best management practices and apply them to politics." So it is with joint use: good management means understanding and managing the relationships between all the moving parts in your system, from colleagues to plant condition to attachers, from safety requirements to requests to attach and detach. The candidates use campaign managers to lead their groups. The infrastructure asset management world has you.
Maximizing Communication Keeps Everything In Sync
In a way, a political campaign is much like a giant marketing campaign. Everything leads to a sales pitch: "Buy what my candidate stands for." Ensuring the candidate's message is loudly and clearly delivered is the campaign staffer’s job, just as keeping lines of communication open between your company, attaching companies and contractors, is part of yours.
However, while campaigns require millions of dollars in advertising time and thousands of social media posts to disseminate their messages, all you need is an easily accessible, online communication solution designed to give you on-demand access to all the information you need, from contracts to job status. Good systems and strong processes add up to big savings in time and effort—as well as keep relationships strong and backlogs from bogging down your organization.
Effectively Using Data is Vital to Winning
There is a reason polls and metrics appear about every ten seconds during high election season. If there is one thing someone running for highest office in the land understands, it is the value—and expiration date—of fresh data. Well, that along with with ability to turn the data into action.
A short period of time can make a huge difference in terms of data—and in signaling a turning of the tide of an election. In the joint use world, the relative freshness of data can mean the difference between an accurate picture of assets in the field and one with gaps and inaccuracies that can mean headaches, time lost, potential fines, liability and even service interruption.
The best advice? Do what the candidates do: live by the numbers. Do not simply collect information on your assets in the field; use it to understand the entire health and condition of your plant, identify project issues before they become real problems and plan for the future, both immediate and distant.