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Cartegraph Campus

Advice from a Municipal Operations Manager

How many times have we been in a gas station or souvenir shop and seen those postcards titled, “Wish You Were Here,” with some inviting scene that is supposed to create a sense of envy in those to whom we send the card?

Receiving such a postcard from Florida, with a photo of the beautiful blue Gulf waters gently lapping at the white sand, palm trees swaying in the warm breeze, as the sun sets blaze orange in the western sky, is absolutely breath-taking. That is, unless you open it when you are standing in your parka and boots with a snow shovel in your hand, contemplating the joyous task of removing 12 inches of white powder that the meteorologist described a couple of days ago as “a possible flurry.” It is in those moments we want to send them a card from Alcatraz Island with the same message to them, with the addition of the word “permanently” added to the end of “Wish You Were Here."

The same can happen to us when we listen to the successes and triumphs of other municipalities or organizations that are enjoying the fruits of their labor and have a fully implemented a picture-perfect operations management system. It gets under our skin, makes us envious, creates self-doubt, and clouds the clear vision we have for our own system.

If we are not careful, we can get frustrated and lose our desire and drive to create a great system. Don't defeat yourself by hanging-up on obstacles or measuring your success against the "picture perfect" results of (insert-name-of-successful-organization-here)

Today, I would like to encourage you in your journey on this highway we are travelling. I have no “Wish You Were Here,” postcard to send you. Yes, we have enjoyed tremendous success in our implementation of Cartegraph, but we have also shed a lot of tears, fought a lot of battles and have the bruises and scars to prove it. Few success stories start out with perfection. As a matter of fact, usually the opposite is true.

Many are familiar with the story of Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb and the nearly endless failures he experienced along the way. With that in mind, I would like to offer a different definition of success as it relates to implementing an asset management system. Success is doing the right things for the right reasons, with the hope that the desired outcome is achieved. We often confuse the rewards of success with success itself. I am not a successful parent the day my child reaches adulthood as a productive and contributing member of society. That is the reward of success. If my child reaches adulthood as someone of whom everyone is proud, then I have been a successful parent for 21 years, not just on the day he turns 21. So, that means that I was a success every day that I spent time with him, played baseball with him, took him to the park, changed his diapers, read to him, etc.

We MUST look at what we are doing in asset management the same way; you are not a success the day that Cartegraph calls you to present what you have done to a large group or when your local paper writes a feature on your slick system that saves your organization time and money. You are a success when you are looking in the mirror, asking yourself, “How are we EVER going to overcome this resistance to change?” You see, success hinges on your desire to push through the obstacles in order to attain your goal. So, do I “Wish You Were Here”? Yes, I do, but not to make you envious or jealous. I want you to be here so you can experience the deeply satisfying feeling of overcoming every obstacle and experiencing the joy that comes from realizing that every bump and bruise is worth it!

Keep going. Keep being successful every day. Before you know it, you will be trading your parka for a pair of shorts and your snow boots for sandals. The harsh, cold winter of your difficulties will become the warm tropical breeze of your success.

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