As part of my leadership philosophy, I separate the leadership of people from the management of things. Inherently people cannot be managed, and in fact resist it. However, they can be led with clear goals, direction, and working toward something that highly motivates them and that is greater than themselves.

That said, the management of things is essential.

First and foremost, a mission statement must be clearly established. That is the ultimate aim. For a Department of Transportation (DOT) and depending on their responsibilities, it is generally accurate to say that they “provide a safe, reliable and sustainable transportation system for the movement of people and goods while improving the economy, mobility and environment.”

Based on my experience, I believe a DOT must establish a relatively small list (10-15) of specific and measurable goals (performance measures) that should be divided into two groups:

  1. strategic goals or outcomes (6-8) and
  2. enablers (7-9) that support the achieving of those goals.

It is fairly common to measure too many goals in a DOT. The risk is losing focus on organizational outcomes, especially at the senior executive level. At the senior executive level it is as important to know what to ignore as it is what to focus on. It is important to measure things and at the right organizational level, especially when issues must be drilled into to reveal areas for improvement. Evidence-based decision-making must take place making true the adage that “the data will set you free”. Nearly everyone has a different opinion of what is important, especially if it is the work they are doing. Everyone’s work should be important and support organizational outcomes. However, these goals must be vetted and the organization aligned to achieve these outcomes. There are essentially seven strategic goals/outcomes for DOTs:

  • safety
  • jobs and commerce
  • mobility
  • access
  • environmental stewardship
  • infrastructure preservation
  • customer service/satisfaction

While I have not defined these, there could be subsets, for example for customer service/satisfaction. Customers can be defined as the public but also legislatures, congress and various partners such as construction contractors, consultants, truckers, shippers etc. I mention this because in the end it is the satisfaction of the customers, supported by the partners, that makes funding, political support, collaboration and a lot of other things work.

Kanter (2015) has a similar idea for a win-win-win-win-win:

  • save lives
  • save costs
  • add convenience by easing congestion
  • reduce pollution and mitigate climate change
  • create future growth opportunities that create new jobs

Another example of outcomes, specific to giga-programs such as the Oregon Transportation Act (OTIA) III State Bridge Delivery Program, is to:

  • stimulate Oregon’s economy
  • employ efficient cost-effective delivery practices
  • maintain freight mobility and keep traffic moving
  • build projects sensitive to their communities and landscape
  • capitalize on funding opportunities

Enablers are largely responsible for:

  • project delivery
  • asset management
  • fiscal responsibility/ROI
  • collaboration/partnership
  • workforce development
  • leveraging technology (think digital technology – transforming transportation and the subject of a later blog)
  • risk management

That said, everything is in a constant process of improvement and so it must be for DOTs and the industry to remain competitive.

One of the more intriguing sources I have come across on the subject of people versus goals/results is from the Harvard Business Review, December 27, 2013, entitled “Should leaders focus on results, or on people?” by Matthew Lieberman. His article reports that if a leader has great social skills only 12% of people consider him a great leader. If a leader has great results skills he is considered great by 14% of people. If a leader has both skill sets the percentage of people rating him a great leader skyrockets to 78%. However, less than 1% of leaders are rated high in both goal focus and social skills.

More will be written in future blogs about the dynamics of people-based, results-driven leadership.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

– Peter F. Drucker

Kanter, Rosabeth Moss. Move: Putting America’s Infrastructure Back in the Lead. W. W. Norton & Company, 2015. Print.