Stay in Front of System Planning

Emergencies are inevitable, but good planning can keep you ahead of them.

We talk a lot about being proactive versus reactive. It’s unquestionably the better approach. But it’s easier said than done.

It requires a much higher degree of planning and organization, for one. And it can require more resources, at least upfront. That can be a big impediment to making a shift in approach.

I’m not out inspecting and rehabilitating pipes. I’m not taking emergency calls for waterline breaks. But taking a proactive versus reactive approach applies to most things. It’s a cycle of staying in front of things so you don’t fall behind and allow manageable tasks to become significant problems. It certainly applies to my job, even though my line of work is quite a bit different than yours.

I edit three magazines. In addition to all the little day-to-day tasks, and there are many, it takes a tremendous amount of planning. Sometimes that’s not my strong suit. When my planning is good, when I know what’s coming up four issues ahead, the whole job gets easier. The magazine gets better. You, the readers, benefit.

But when I fall behind — and with three publications and other responsibilities, it’s inevitable at times — things can quickly snowball. Planning for four or five months down the road isn’t as urgent as the missing photos or fact check that needs to happen immediately. So a little time I could have spent planning and staying ahead — being proactive — is lost to the urgent and immediate task at hand. And when something else pops up, which it always does, a little more time is lost. Suddenly I’m not planned out as well and I find myself reacting to problems instead of laying the groundwork for future issues of the magazine.

It’s a cycle you’re probably familiar with in your sewer and water systems. Maybe you’re trying to stay ahead of flushing your large-diameter sewer mains, or listening for leaks in your distribution system, but a broken line and all the problems it can cause take your crew away from their flushing or leak detection work. And as soon as you get that broken line repaired, another one backs up and causes an overflow. Pretty soon you’re chasing problems instead of preventing them.

Shorewood Water Works in Shorewood, Wisconsin, is a great example of taking a proactive approach to systemwide improvement. The utility is featured in this issue of Municipal Sewer & Water, and the staff there have done a tremendous job of improving their overall operations and cutting water loss. They’ve done it by auditing and reviewing their operations and looking for ways to get more efficient. The approach has improved their system, saved ratepayers money and earned them statewide recognition.

There’s a lot to be learned from their example.

Emergencies are inevitable. Problems pop up. But the more time you spend focusing on the future, being proactive in your cleaning and maintenance operations, the fewer emergencies and problems you’ll find taking away your ability to remain proactive. Easier said than done, but certainly worth the effort.

Enjoy this month’s issue.


Comments on this site are submitted by users and are not endorsed by nor do they reflect the views or opinions of COLE Publishing, Inc. Comments are moderated before being posted.