Your background is extensively planning-based. What is the most complex project you’ve planned and managed?
I’d have to say the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan tops the list. The plan is necessary for our TN-GA urban area to receive an annual estimated $11 million in federal funds, and it takes about two years to complete. My role is to create a process for establishing a vision, organize a schedule, coordinate staff and consultant teams, and deliver draft and final products.
The plan received one of eight national FHWA/FTA Transportation Planning Excellence Awards. What made it so successful?
Anecdotally, I think it was directly related to my team members’ understanding of their work responsibilities, dedication to timely decision-making, and perhaps most importantly, proactive, passionate, and problem solving mindset. The project required an immense amount of communication and coordination as well as a willingness to reconcile competing interests and needs.
How do you encourage constituents to stay on board until completion?
I think clear, thoughtful, and routine communication is critical. It shows respect for the constituent and that you truly value their time and contributions, and it sends the message that they really do influence the outcome. When constituents feel that inclusiveness, they tend to stay involved and want to be part of seeing the effort to fruition. It builds trust and support beyond the specific plan or project.
Once you’ve made a plan, how do you respond to new information?
When there is new information, we give it thoughtful consideration. Usually we have at least one lengthy discussion on the matter. But we always have to ask ourselves if the anticipated outcome is worth a delay to our schedule. Sometimes the answer is yes, but most often the answer is no and there are interim solutions to carry us forward. I think a common symptom of poor project delivery, especially for large projects, is to get stuck in a rut – a pattern of revisiting decisions and re-evaluating the project purpose or path. Over time, this can lead to a lack of trust in the organization as a whole.