4.2.5 Case studY
CASE STUDY: HOW TO BETTER COMMUNICATE ON ROAD ASSET MANAGEMENT
THOMAS LINDER, Bavarian State Ministry for Housing, Building and Transport, Germany
Communication is one of the key elements to achieve an appropriate funding for road maintenance. But communication in this context is not only communication between road engineers. It is essential that a proper communication is carried out towards the decision makers, finally it will be the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Finance, the Government and the Parliament or members thereof.
The goal is to communicate in a way that is easily understood by non-professionals in the field of road engineering.
The benefit will be a better understanding of matters in the context of road maintenance management or more comprehensive in terms of road asset management.
In a 7-step-process it is shown, how better communication on road asset management can result in a better funding of road maintenance:
- Step 1: As road engineers we have to be experts in our business. The condition survey, the prognosis of the condition development, the definition of the maintenance strategy, the maintenance program and the building program as well as the controlling, let us say the whole maintenance cycle has to be carried out with profound engineering expertise. This is the work of engineers and technicians including all the traceable data processing and the final visualization of technical information. Undoubtedly this step number one is expected to be of high quality from the engineering point of view.
- Step 2: Step number two has to do a lot with communication. It is not only the task to bring technical results to engineers but finally it is important to bring the information to decision makers who usually are not engineers. If any graphics are used, they have to be understandable “at one glance” even by non-engineers. The task for us is to translate the engineering language into a language that is easily understandable by decision makers. Use striking charts and diagrams. And explain the way how you got there in a traceable way.
- Step 3: Manage it, that your boss is on your side. This is only possible with clear statements, with evidence of high quality and with a traceable process.
- Step 4: Convince the boss means to manage that your concern is his concern! Explain your approach in an easily understandable way so that your boss can explain your approach in an easily understandable way to his or her boss. Make asset management a topic in the cabinet of ministers. Bring your boss to transport your concern into the highest level of decision makers. Let him or her explain what happens if nothing happens! Realize that a maximum time slot of 15 minutes must guarantee the success! Concentrate on the key findings.
- Step 5: The next step is to involve the Parliament as it is the State‘s budget authority. Address all deputies with a letter of your minister and send them an executive summary and a brochure on the topic. Be aware that not all the deputies are interested in roads. But find out, who is interested.
- Step 6: Bring interested deputies together and tell them the story. Make them aware that a bad performance with a big “red sector” is not acceptable. “Red sector” means the portion of roads in an unacceptable condition. Again: Explain a traceable process, use striking charts and easily understandable figures. Take a graphic designer on board to give your statements the target-oriented finishing. Involve a journalist for the right wording. Don not think that you are an expert in this business if you are an engineer. Explain it to your wife or your neighbor and check if they can understand your intention. Explain what you can achieve with an adequate budget. Show the performance development. Tell your audience that by improving the surface-condition you also achieve an improvement of traffic safety, which is a very good trigger to open the ears of your audience.
- Step 7: The final step of communication is to show what you are doing with the increased budget. Have a good cooperation with local media and try to place press articles about the activities of your local road authorities. Show what has been achieved last year and what they are launching this year in a striking coloured map. Manage to encourage the press making reports about your work. Road users are interested in these things. They will experience the obstacles through construction sites as well as the benefits of carried out measures. And finally the local deputies will feel good when they read such an article, when they realize that they are part of the success and finally they will be with you in the future.
The key is to explain in simple words what you are doing. Simplify the consequences of different strategies. Involve your boss up to the Minister as the top decision maker.
LINDER, T.: How can we communicate better on road asset management. Presentation during the PPRS2018 (Pavement Preservation and Recycling Summit) conference, Nice, France, March 2018.
Bavarian State Ministry of the Interior, for Building and Transport: Maintenance management for Bavarian Roads, Munich, Germany, August 2011 http://www.bauministerium.bayern.de/assets/stmi/vum/strasse/bauunderhalt/42_maintenance_management_201108.pdf