About Time: Future Us

Thanks to my brother Bill Wallsgrove

Board member Lou Cripps and his team at RTD are great Asset Management practitionersand that is largely because of their attitude to time.

For example, the team prepares carefully for meetings with key stakeholders, not just the CEO but engineers, IT, maintenance, HR. They think carefully about what they want to effect through the meeting – their objectives – and then project forward what the possible response/s of the others will be, based on their previous interactions. They can then work on what will most connect and make a win:win outcome likely.

Lou’s team also makes full use of red-teaming and pre-mortems, to imagine what could go wrong with an initiative so they can prepare not to go there.  Risk assessments and risk plans, essentially, but exploiting the human ability to project forward and then ‘look back’ in our minds. (“Imagine it’s six months’ time and we are doing a post-mortem on what went wrong.”)

Lou refers often to ‘future me’ and ‘future us’: that is, stepping in the shoes of himself in a year or ten years’ time.  This is not just to feel how fed up he might be then about what he failed to do now, but also to consider what future him would care about more widely. It is empathy with a future self. And it does not even need to be yourself. What about someone in the community in a hundred years?

This is good Asset Management for infrastructure, in particular, as infrastructure decisions we make now should always be assumed to have lasting implications.  The assets we build now may still be in use in a hundred years.  And the things we don’t build because we’re building something else. The lost opportunities, and future debts.  What we fail to maintain, so will have to be built again… 

Lou’s team last year relentlessly analysed the data to work out the likely costs – the total costs, now and into the future – for a proposed project to buy more electric buses.  They worked out that this particular set-up would cost their transit agency approximately $2 a mile extra on every electric route for the next 50 years.  It wouldn’t even save on carbon, because the electricity supply proposed was fossil fuel burning generation.  (It was not a good proposal, and the Board duly turned it down thanks to their analysis.)

To build and not think ahead is a dereliction of duty. Principle number one for an Asset Manager: always ask, “And then what?”

Making full use of the past, in order to think ourselves into the future.

How do you this in your team?

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