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Coordinating a Path Forward

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By Sher Kirk

The most important part of my job is to coordinate the efforts of diverse departments to achieve organizational goals. My purpose is to integrate the function of each employee and department to serve the needs of the corporation. Siloed and isolated departments can find themselves doing excellent work that is nevertheless at cross-purposes to other departments or is outside the scope of organizational goals – making their efforts an inefficient use of resources.

Whether an organization is small or large, the need to coordinate efforts is critical to success. If that logic is expanded out to posit that individual organizations can be considered as different departments within a larger industry of organizations, then it follows that the industry is better served when it defines industry goals and coordinates the efforts of multiple organizations to achieve those goals. 

The first step is to define the industry goals, to give each organization a guidepost. Through the years, there have been several associations, committees and alliances that gather from time to time to discuss the current state of damage prevention and utility safety. We learn from each other and come away from meetings and conferences with insights and fresh enthusiasm to improve the way we are doing things. But wouldn’t it be great if we could come together and workshop real, tangible goals to point all of us in one direction? The saying goes “many hands make light work,” and together we could achieve so much more than we ever can by staying in our siloes and focusing on the smaller picture.

Technology is pushing our world in new directions faster and faster all the time, and while we should be cautious of putting ourselves on the "bleeding edge," we can and must do a better job of looking around those corners and preparing our industry to take advantage of technologies that make utility safety more present and more accessible than it ever has been. Some individual projects tap the surface of where we can take damage prevention to new levels. If we can all just agree on which technologies and innovative approaches will move us the farthest the fastest, we can pull together to make that a reality for more than just a few organizations.

Advancements in GIS point to ways we can put better information in the hands of excavators in the field, to reduce the pressure on our overloaded systems, and control costs for all stakeholders. Identifying underground infrastructure through GPS may someday be a requirement and, more importantly, will be an expectation coming from tech-savvy generations already entering the workforce. Not to mention the myriad of ways that AI is already being applied. Dedicated and Alternate Locate Provider programs are seeking better ways to deliver timely responses to locate requests.

If this industry had an “Operations Director,” think of how our aligned efforts could push the needle and propel us to better solutions. In other industries, there are pathfinder companies that cut new paths through the ordinary and force every other company to chase them. Wouldn’t it be great if we could jointly take the industry forward together? When we look at damage prevention as a shared responsibility, it is possible to choose directions together that every stakeholder can follow. The next time you attend a conference or industry event, open the conversation up to the possibilities. Let us forge the path together and direct ourselves into a successful future.


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