One of the things that I have always found to be helpful to me in my professional life is to treat my work the same way I do my body and my car: I give it an annual check-up. Taking a scheduled time to pause and reevaluate helps me make better decisions, and lets me get a heads up on expensive or dangerous problems I may face down the road.
Do you do the same thing for your yellow fleet? Maybe it’s time to schedule a regular check-up for your transportation program – to determine its operational efficiency (i.e. Health). Is it providing the highest quality services to students?
Let’s start with you, the employee in a school transportation office. The first question that needs to be answered is where are you in the life of your career? New on the job? Inherited someone else’s program? Been there forever? Stuck in neutral? Counting down to retirement? Somewhere in between? It is important that we take stock of our personal journey because each of these very real stages has implications for our programs. Our personal attitudes trickle down to the performance of our program every day we are on the job. Maybe you’re putting off a major process change because you expect to retire soon, or because you’re new on the job and need more time to evaluate the current program.
Next it would be good to remember how you got there. Did you come up through the ranks? Started as a bus driver? Transferred in from another district? Came from the outside? These kinds of paths often have a great effect on how we are viewed by those we must influence. If you moved up from a specific part of the workforce, such as a position as a bus driver, does that affect the way you prioritize your tasks? Do you put drivers ahead of other members of your staff, for example?
What’s going on with your program? Do any of these phrases sound familiar?
- “We don’t need to change much because we always did it that way.”
- “We are under tremendous pressure to cut.”
- “There is a revolving door on this district and we never know which way is up.”
These kinds of reality checks give immediate clues on the ways you are likely to respond to the day to day issues. How is your workplace environment affecting your program decisions? Does it make you more or less likely to try new things or reform old problems?
Is the program improving? Try these thoughts on for size:
- “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
- “Everything seems OK because nothing much changes from year to year.”
- “We are always looking for ways to improve.”
- “We try to use the latest technology.”
- “I aim to run my operation like a business.”
If your goal isn’t one of continuous improvement, then your check-up has uncovered a major problem. Being honest with this answer might allow you to get that long overdue reality check.
Are things going downhill? There are all the kinds of issues that sap your strength and energy every day:
- Issues with morale
- High driver turnover
- Union problems
- Parent complaints
- Aging fleet
- Tough boss
- Do more with less
When the level of these problems rises above a dull roar there is a real danger of distraction from your ability to focus on safety and service. Where are these problems stemming from? What are you doing to prevent them?
Now for the tough questions: Where will your program be in five years? What will be different? Are you working to set yourself up for the future? Are you setting things up for your successor?
Here’s what it comes down to: Your ability to plan effectively for the future is critical to managing the tremendous responsibilities that come with the job of student transportation.
This is too important of a job to just go through the motions. Just like you do preventative maintenance on your buses and get your annual physical, take the time to take your program’s temperature. Step back from your program and look at it from an outsiders view. Hopefully, your check-up will be a good one!