Transportation Trends from West Coast Summit

Participants at the Decision Lens Transportation Summit in San Francisco offered perspectives on the current transportation environment.  Below are some of the findings:

  • In the future baby boomers will be retiring so there will be a larger working population.
  • The Millenial generation will be choosing to use transit.
  • People will be driving less and increasing in bicycle use and other modes of transportation (other than driving)
  • Congestion pricing will become more of an issue and toll lanes will be increasing.

As a result, participants discussed the following transportation trends:

  • Increase in ridership
  • Demographic shift and behaviors
  • Less VMT, Vehicles/HH
  • Alternative Modes, Inter-modal
  • The Multi-modal city

For more discussion, join us at our discussion group on LinkedIn – Decision Lens.


Criteria and Transportation Decision Models

Decision Lens conducted a review of 14 transportation industry models from 12 organizations focusing on capital investment, transportation improvement and long range plans.  Included in the review was a mixture of transit agency models and those from state/local transportation organizations (DOTs and MPOs/RPOs).  Many models had similar concepts represented, but not always at the same level of the hierarchy or explicitly using the same words. For the analysis, we were able to take high-level concepts across the models and determine areas where common criteria are used, as well as how the criteria are defined.

Criteria are the driving factors used to define success for a specific decision.  Criteria represent either a broad goal or specific objective against which an alternative is evaluated.   Many transit agencies and DOTs focus their decision models around prioritizing assets. Below is a snapshot of the percentage of models using various criterion.

What are your thoughts on the criteria displayed? Do these criteria represent your understanding of how transportation clients prioritize assets?

Live from the West Coast – Transportation Summit

San Francisco, CaliforniaDecision Lens is hosting a Transportation Summit with leaders from Transit Agencies and Department of Transportation (DOT) organizations throughout the west coast. Check back throughout the day on Meetings Improved  as we post findings and discussions that occur live!


In working with many transportation customers (both transit agencies and DOTs) across the country, our Decision Solutions Group (DSG) has observed a number of trends and best practices in the industry and are sharing them today at a Transportation Summit held in San Francisco. Our west coast Decision Lens team is facilitating discussions with participants centered around learning more about specific challenges transit and DOTs are facing and discussing customized solutions to the most pressing issues.

The Summit plans to address questions like:

  • What complex decisions are others wrestling with, and how do they use Decision Lens?
  • Is there a standard language and set of criteria we can work toward as an industry?
  • What criteria and decision-making processes are commonly used?
  • What effective stakeholder strategies could we employ to be more effective?
  • How can we optimize our resources across time periods, multiple pools and account for inflation?

As we post discussion topics, it would be great to hear from you, feel free to offer comments.

Book Review: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

One of my favorite books on the topic of change management is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (New York: Broadway Books, 2010).  The book focuses around the question of “why it’s so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our lives and how to overcome this challenge.”  As the Heaths point out, “Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems one rational and one emotional.  The rational mind wants to make a change, but the emotional system enjoys the existing routine.  This tension can doom a change effort – but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.” In Switch, the Heaths show how we can all confront this challenge of mind and emotion and actually make meaningful change in our lives at work or at home.

The book strikes a good balance between research, engaging applications, and practical solutions.  If you are looking for a better understanding of why change is so difficult and how to overcome common roadblocks, this book is great read.  Let me give one example that I found very helpful.  In Chapter 1: Three Surprises About Change, the authors explain that self-control is exhaustible.  The Heaths argue that the definition of self-control is not “the narrow sense of the word, as in the willpower needed to fight vice (smokes, cookies, alcohol)…but a broader kind of self-supervision.  Think of the way your mind works when you’re giving negative feedback to an employee, or assembling a new bookshelf, or learning a new dance.  You are careful and deliberate with your words and movements.  It feels like there’s a supervisor on duty.  That’s self-control, too” (page 11). The reason this matters for change is “when people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic, and changing those behaviors takes self-control.  When people exhaust their self-control, what they’re exhausting are the mental muscles needed to think creatively, to focus, to inhibit their impulses, and to persist in the face of frustration or failure.  In other words, they’re exhausting precisely the same muscles needed to make a big change” (page 12).

Does this point resonate with you? It sure does with me.  As a facilitator, when I am leading a challenging session with participants who are trying to think in new ways about old ways of doing business, by the end of the day I am mentally whipped and the participants are tired too.  It’s not easy to battle your rational mind that knows you need to make a change, and your emotional self that resists learning a whole new way of doing something; it is exhausting.  I think owning and recognizing this reality can help make any change process more manageable because at the end of the day, you have a bit more patience with yourself and understanding for why this can be difficult.  This is just one of many good examples from the book that I found helpful, and overall Switch is a great read and I highly recommend it.

Emergency Landing – Leading through Crisis

“Ladies and Gentlemen, with the loss of our right engine we are still able to fly safely, please do not worry, but we will be making an emergency landing…immediately.”  These words were calmly uttered by the Captain of my flight a few weeks ago coming home from a business trip in Panama City, Florida. No matter how seasoned a traveler I thought I had become, hearing a tremendous BANG and feeling the plane roll slightly right and then left, are not things I want to experience anytime soon.  The nervous energy from me and my fellow passengers could be cut with a knife, yet the plane was eerily quiet until we touched down safely and the plane erupted in applause!

Although the experience was stressful, it offered me the opportunity to reflect on a number of areas in my life, including, how I respond to crises. My reactions in this case were deep breaths, and abiding faith that the Captain and First Officer were completely in control of the situation.  I also recalled a lecture in graduate school by Captain Al Haynes on crisis management.  In 1989, Captain Haynes was piloting United Flight 232, a full flight with over 300 passengers, when the engine exploded and shrapnel cut all hydraulic fuel lines used to control the aircraft. Although this was a catastrophic failure, Captain Haynes managed to remain calm at the helm, speak plainly and directly to the passengers about the magnitude of the problem, and crash-land the plane in Sioux City, Iowa. His efforts that day are credited with saving the lives of 185 passengers.  I will never forget Captain Haynes telling his story and teaching us how to lead through any crisis.

The interesting point is that the same principles can be applied in any situation where the unexpected occurs. As a facilitator, the response is not typically a matter of life or death, but it can feel that way. We have all been in the situation where something occurs that no one expected and you are called to lead through it. Captain Haynes is a remarkable man and I want to share some of the lessons I learned from him on responding to any crises.

1. Fly the plane – In the face of emergency, the first thing to do is to take control of the yoke.  Statistics over the years have accounted a number of tragedies that are the result of pilots focusing only on solving the emergency and losing perspective that even though an emergency has occurred, the plane needs to be flown. The problem is that if the focus is only on the emergency and someone has not taken over the yoke, the plane will spiral out of control and crash. When emergency strikes, remember to fly the plane.

As a facilitator, if something completely unexpected occurs while you are leading a session, remember that if you only focus on the problem you may lose sight of the larger perspective. For example, a participant launches into a tirade.  Focusing only on the words of the tirade and becoming personally offended will get you no where.  As the facilitator, participants are always expecting you to land them safely regardless of what happens.  Address the situation that presents itself but do not get so caught up in the problem that you lose perspective on your ultimate goals

2. Stay calm – When you listen to the flight recording of Captain Haynes and the control power that day, it is eerie how calm he sounds even though he is confronted with a scenario that was considered virtually impossible. At that time, airlines had no mitigation plan for dealing with the type of situation where all hydraulic fuel lines are unusable. Captain Haynes told us that he knew the situation was dire, but he refused to panic because this would only make the situation worse.  How often have we heard the advice to stay calm and do not panic when faced with an emergency?  It’s good advice – when one allows their nerves to control them in crises they may become disoriented, unclear in their thinking, and may even act out of fear instead of reason.

Apply the same principle as a facilitator to remain calm regardless of the situation. When we are calm, we are able to think more clearly and provide direction based on our knowledge, understanding, and skills. As a leader, displaying calm can also help to soothe and settle those who are anxious around you.

3. Be direct with people – Captain Haynes is heard on the cabin intercom telling the passengers, “I’m not going to kid you…We have a serious situation.”  Captain Haynes was direct and honest with the people on the airplane.  When the Captain is straightforward, people are able to respond accordingly. Knowing the impact of the plane hitting the ground was going to be rough, he told them to brace for a landing that would be harder than anything they’d ever experienced.  This allowed the people to prepare. Survivors also said that hearing the Captain’s calm voice allowed them to be reassured that he would do everything in his power to land the plane safely.

As a facilitator, be direct with people. In the example of the tirade by an angry participant, ignoring the problem will not make it go away.  There are a whole bunch of reasons why a participant may be acting out, but addressing the person or their concerns directly is a best practice; otherwise, the problem may only become worse.

4. Prepare, prepare, prepare –  Captain Haynes was prepared for addressing any emergency in flight. He practiced, trained, and studied the variety of scenarios that could occur in flight.  Although this situation was unique, Captain Haynes continually adjusted and responded to the changing conditions of the situation using all of the resources at his disposal. At one point, an airline flight instructor sitting in first class (Dennis Fitch) offered his assistance which Captain Haynes gladly accepted.

Preparation is a key ingredient for success.  If you think through, anticipate, and plan for the unexpected, you are better able to respond to any crises. Good preparation involves practicing your actions and responses, so when situations arise, you have already gone through the experience, even if only in your mind.

What are some methods you employ to deal with stressful situations?

Where’s the boss? Maybe on a meeting treadmill?

The Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled Trapped in a Meeting: Logging How 500 CEOs Spend the DayThe article reported the outcomes from a study by the London School of Economics and Harvard Business School on how executives spend their time.  A central finding was that CEOs spend about 1/3 of their time in meetings.  Breaking down a 55-hour workweek, on average about 18 hours per week are consumed in meetings, 3 hours on calls, and 5 hours in business meals.

Of course, no one is surprised by the fact that a CEO is going to spend time in meetings with key staff, stakeholders, etc. However, the article has me thinking about the level of productivity that is achieved for each hour spent in meetings? Even though you may or may not be a CEO, how productive are you?  If you spend a great deal of time in meetings and you are achieving your goals, something is working well so that’s a step in the right direction. However, if you find yourself struggling each week to advance your agenda, you may be on what I call the meeting treadmill. This is where you are working very hard, sweating and spending a bunch of time running (from meeting to meeting) but you go nowhere and in the end you are right where you started. Sure, if things are going well for you, you may need to turn on the incline so you can burn even more calories.  But, if you are struggling, it may be time to get off the treadmill and talk with a trainer (or your administrative assistant) about making some changes in your workout. You may find yourself wanting to get off the treadmill all together, going outside for a run, and starting a new routine!

Are you on the unproductive meeting treadmill?  Or, have you been able to figure out a productive meeting routine? Please share your thoughts.

Present company excluded

It’s Monday Morning…and you are halfway through your 9AM meeting and your mind starts to wander. You begin thinking about all of your To Do’s, a whole list of calls that still need to be made, even details left undone that you may have missed from the prior week’s work and you begin to feel a great sense of anxiety build within you!  Sound familiar? You are not alone. The feeling that you have too much to do and not enough time to do everything is common for so many busy professionals.  However, what we forget when we become overwhelmed is that one of the key aspects of remaining productive in meetings is staying present. What I mean is that if you are always thinking about the past or the future, you are not really present to the individuals or the work right in front of you or around you. Being present is more about listening well in the moment and fighting the temptation to dwell on the past or obsess about the future.  When you are present, you stay actively engaged and allow the present moment to help you accomplish the goal immediately in front of you.  The question then becomes, how do I stay present when I have so much on my mind? Here are a few tips.

Turn off the technology – Turning off your IPhone, blackberry, or whatever your preferred mode of communication during meetings can help you stay focused and present.  Even when your phone is silenced, you may feel this small vibration that is beckoning you to check out, or reminding you that someone or something wants your attention.  Turn it off and find your mind rest a bit easier.  One hour with your phone off is not going to hurt anyone. Plus, you typically can’t respond during the middle of a meeting anyway so turn it back on when you are done. This is a great cure for finding some quiet and focused mental time in a meeting.

Write it down and refocus – Instead of resisting all of the tasks pummeling your brain for action during a meeting, keep a piece of paper out and call it “Out of my mind notes” so when you think of something you must do, you can quickly write it down and refocus. Often, people are fighting so hard to focus, they end up taking so much time resisting their own thoughts that they defeat the very purpose of their attempt to pay attention. Write it down and let it go.  When a thought comes, right it down and you will allow your mind to rest.

People first –Next time you are in a meeting and your mind starts going crazy with thoughts, just smile and remind yourself of the principle I call People First. People First is the idea that when tempted by worries about the past or the future, focus on the human beings who require your full attention in this very present moment.  If you are so caught up in your own mind, you may miss the colleague sitting next to you who has offered a brilliant idea because you are so busy thinking about all that you have to do.  It’s hard to obsess about To Do lists when you look people in the eyes and really listen to what they are saying instead of listening only to what your brain is telling you to think about. With People First, remind yourself what’s really important – meaningful connections to the world around you. Last I checked, great ideas may have come from thoughts, but human beings are the ones that actually made them become reality.  Live in the present moment and focus on the people around you. It makes meetings better, your time more productive, and puts your To Do list in proper perspective.

What are other techniques that allow you to remain present and focused?