Developing Support for Innovation
Victoria Transport Policy Institute
Updated 17 April 2017
This chapter discusses various ways to help build support for innovation within organizations. This tends to support TDM implementation.
“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
– Albert Einstein
Change Management refers to activities that support organizational innovation and reform (in this case the organization can be range from a small, private company to a government agency or even an entire community or jurisdiction). It recognizes that organizations often have inertia that must be overcome to create more efficient, responsive and resilient organizations.
Special effort is often required to overcome the normal inertia of people and organizations to new approaches and practices, even if they are significantly better overall in the long run. This inertia reflects path dependency, the tendency of existing systems to perpetuate themselves (examples include QWERTY keyboards, differences between countries that drive on the left or the rights side of the roadway, different types of electrical plugs used in different countries, and continued use of outdated computer software) due to the high costs of changing equipment and people’s habits.
Change Management requires anticipating and addressing potential obstacles to innovation, and building support by showing individuals that new approaches can ultimately make them better off. It requires managing risk, since change involves uncertainty. It requires including stakeholders in decision-making, and responding to their concerns, since change usually affects many people. It requires correcting distortive institutional incentives that encourage individuals to oppose innovation. All of these changes reflect good management, and are particularly important when implementing fundamental change.
Examples of Assumptions that Must Change For Transport System Optimization
Change requires persistence and redundancy. It is important to treat current opponents as possible future supporters. Most people need to hear a new idea several times before they embrace it. They will first perceive it as somebody else’s idea, but the second or third time they may begin to take ownership and begin to think of it as their idea.
People naturally tend to rationalize their attitudes and behavior (Gilbert, 2006). It is important to understand how stakeholders perceive innovation and reform, and to frame issues to highlight benefits (TDM Marketing). For example, road and parking pricing can be described as “motorists paying directly rather than indirectly for the facilities they use,” rather than simply a new fee. Similarly, congestion pricing can be described as “a discount for offpeak users” rather than a premium for peak-period users. It is important to show how TDM strategies can help achieve equity objectives, by reducing the need for non-users to subsidize road and parking facilities, and by improving mobility options for non-drivers.
Sometimes, when a problem seems particularly difficult it is best to reconsider how the problem is defined, how options are evaluated, and the types of solutions considered. This is called a “paradigm shift,” (Kuhn, 1970). Famous paradigm shifts include Copernicus’s heliocentric model of the universe, Darwin’s theory of evolution, and liberal democracy as a political structure. Common management clichés such as “Work smarter, not harder” and “Think outside the box” are admonitions to consider new approaches to problem solving, i.e., a paradigm shift.
Transportation Demand Management represents a type of paradigm shift. Specifically, TDM requires:
· Evaluating transportation system performance based on Accessibility and Mobility, not just vehicle travel.
· Comprehensive evaluation of Transport Demand, including consideration of trends that may change future demands, and detailed understanding of factors that affect travel demands.
· Comprehensive Transportation Planning, rather than reductionist decision-making, so the full benefits of TDM can be considered.
· Least Cost Planning, so strategies that increase system efficiency are given equal consideration as strategies that increase system capacity.
· Consideration of Transportation Diversity Benefits.
· Application of Market Reforms to increase overall efficiency and equity.
· Comprehensive transportation system Performance Evaluation.
Although these strategies are often desirable for many reasons, their benefits tend to be dispersed and long-term, and so are often overlooked or undervalued.
TDM implementation requires “change agents”, that is, people with vision to provide leadership, who are able to articulate the benefits of change and has the resources to overcome the barriers that inevitably develop. This is not for the faint-hearted or easily discouraged: initially such reforms often face exaggerated criticism and fail or are only partially implemented. However, over time, worthwhile reforms take hold and become normal. Once they are well established, people who originally opposed innovations will often claim credit for them!
Mobility management often involves changing current practices, so proponents must be change agents, that is, people within an organization who provide leadership for change and anticipate and address objections. Change Agents must:
· Carefully define problems.
· Expand the range of solutions that are considered in decision-making.
· Question assumptions used for evaluation.
· Look at the big picture. Pay attention to context and indirect impacts.
· Ask, “Are current trends desirable?” “Will they result in an optimal future?”
· Use comprehensive evaluation techniques that consider all benefits and costs.
· Make change more attractive than current practices.
· Use positive statements. Emphasize the benefits of change.
· Focus on appropriate niches. Don’t try to be everything to everybody.
· Don’t be afraid to say “no” to bad ideas, but try to offer an alternative which better balances overall objectives.
· Listen to and educate stakeholders. Develop communication with stakeholders in order to clearly understand the basis of their concerns and how they can be addressed.
· Don’t give up! Most change requires several efforts before success. Be prepared for obstacles and setbacks.
Innovation often faces resistance and criticism from people who fear change. But if new ideas are fundamentally sound and advocates are persistent, they will often succeed and the same people who previously opposed the change will embrace it and claim it as their own!
Strategic planning and innovation require that people consider conditions and options that are significantly different from what they are accustomed. For example, strategic planning requires that healthy, middle-age people consider the transportation system they will want to exist in several decades, when they may have difficulty driving and walking, and fuel prices may be much higher than they have ever experienced.
People often assume that what is considered normal must be good, and so change is bad. For example, efforts to encourage use of alternative transport modes often face resistance from people who are accustomed to automobile travel and so cannot believe that alternatives could be better. “I just want to be able to drive where I want,” they might argue, implying that such behavior is quite reasonable, even if factors such as population growth, land prices and travel demand are increasing the costs of accommodating additional vehicle traffic and making alternatives more cost effective. Problem solving often requires making change seem reasonable and even desirable compared with the alternative.
A crisis is a terrible thing to waste
Most organizations and groups occasionally faces a crisis: a situation that involves significant risks. These force decision-makers to reexamine existing priorities and assumptions, and to consider new approaches. As a result, a crisis can be an opportunity for positive change. To take advantage of such opportunities, change agents should:
For example, a municipal budget shortfall may be an opportunity to propose Parking Pricing, and a state budget shortfall may be an opportunity to introduce Fuel Tax increases, as possible solutions that also helps achieve mobility management objectives. Similarly, the unexpected closure of a major bridge or highway may be an opportunity to introduce new Transit Improvements, Ridesharing and Commute Trip Reduction programs that can provide durable, strategic benefits.
Change tends to be difficult because it requires “psychic effort,” that is, it forces people think. For example, shifting from free parking to Priced or Cashed Out parking requires people to weigh the value of each vehicle trip. Similarly, it may seem stressful to try cycling or riding public transit rather than driving. But over time people become accustomed to new options and conditions, and will often admit that they are better off overall, despite initial opposition. The psychic effort can be reduced by making changes:
Consider the first generation of trains, cars and airplanes. To modern eyes they look awkward, and their performance was poor. The first cars were horseless carriages, steered by a tiller rather than a wheel. The first Wright Flyer had various wings, stabilizers, steering panels and reinforcements that seem unnecessarily complex and inefficient; it could only carry one passenger lying on their stomach. But these modest beginnings evolved into modern cars and planes. Similarly, new transportation management programs and policies often seem awkward and inefficient when first introduced, in part because people are unfamiliar with them, and in part because important details may still need to be adjusted to improve performance. Do not let a program be judged too soon, do not be afraid to adjust programs and policies when needed, and continue to maintain a vision of what the program should achieve in the long term.
Organizations often require change management to reform standard practices and resources. For example, a planning agency may need to change its zoning codes, development standards, staff training, funding formulas and decision-making processes to effectively implement TDM.
Real Versus Token Change
Organizations often try to avoid real, fundamental change by implementing token reforms. An important Change Management skill is therefore being able to discern between token and real changes. Here are some indicators of real change.
· Although it may start small, it is the beginning rather than the end of organizational change.
· Leaders give it real respect and support.
· It is integrated into strategic plans and activities.
· It can grow to have a significant effect on organizational activities.
Change Management is a necessary foundation for many TDM policies and programs. Least Cost Planning, Change Management, Regulatory Reform, Market Reforms, TDM Programs, Institutional Reforms, and Commute Trip Reduction programs often require Change Management.
A penguin walks into a bar and asks for a cold, tall glass of herring guts and vodka. The bartender, disgusted at the thought, replies, “No, I’m sorry, we don’t serve herring guts.”
The penguin leaves disappointed, and after trying every other drinking establishment in town returns the next day, again asking for herring guts and vodka. The bartender, afraid that the very idea of such a drink will discourage his regular customers, says, “We don’t serve herring guts, and if you come back here asking for them one more time, I’m going to nail your webbed feet to the floor!” The penguin left again disappointed.
The next day the penguin returns and asks, “Do you have some nails?” “No” said the bartender, a little surprised. “Good, then do you have any herring guts that you can mix with vodka?”
Current management literature provides guidance on change management. Below are some specific recommendations for applying change management to support TDM.
· Work to create a climate that values innovation and supports appropriate risk taking.
· Establish a vision with clear goals, objectives and performance indicators (Transport Planning). This vision provides a reference for describing to stakeholders why change must occur and evaluating progress. Establish a long-range plan, which identifies how individual policy and program reforms support overall goals.
· Develop a team to support change. No single person can implement change alone.
· Communicate a sense of urgency. Most stakeholders will consider change uncomfortable and risky. Without a sense of urgency people tend to avoid change. To motivate change it is necessary to make existing conditions seem more dangerous than the proposed changes. Failure should be defined as continuing with the status quo.
· Educate stakeholders about new policies and programs. Opposition often reflects misunderstandings.
· Don’t be deterred by setbacks. An innovation often fails to be accepted the first time it is introduced, but succeeds with persistence. Do not abandon TDM if a proposal is rejected the first time it is introduced. Instead, continue to educate stakeholders of its value, address objections, and try again.
· Accept risks. Change requires risk. Accept the change that a plan will not turn out as expected. Learn from the experience and try again.
· Emphasize (but don’t exaggerate) benefits. TDM tends to provide multiple benefits, so let stakeholders know about all of them.
· Emphasize different types of benefits to different interest groups. For example, to transportation professionals and businesses, emphasize the economic justifications for TDM, since it is often a cost effective way to address parking and traffic problems. To community groups, emphasize benefits to neighborhood environmental quality, and benefits to non-drivers. To designers and planners, emphasize increased flexibility and support for strategic development objectives.
· Work with stakeholders to identify and address points of opposition.
· Look for small victories. Small victories are the fuel that will keep your team energized for ongoing efforts. Find reasons to celebrate successes whenever you can. Use small victories to build team confidence and momentum.
· Be willing to negotiate and compromise. For example, if there is opposition to priced parking on the grounds that this would impose an excessive financial burden on some lower-income people, offer a certain number of need-based discounts or exemptions.
Read any management book or magazine and you’ll find numerous clichés concerning the importance of innovative approaches to problem solving. TDM represents the application of innovative management to help solve transportation problems, so these management clichés actually describe what we do! So feel free to use the latest management clichés when you describe TDM – let people know that it represents the cutting edge of good management. See how many of these clichés you can use in one TDM proposal or PowerPoint presentation:
“Turn problems into opportunities.”
“Think outside the box.”
“Challenge the dominant paradigm.”
“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”
“Make short term decisions that support strategic objectives”
“Build partnerships with stakeholders.”
“Develop niche markets.”
“Value teamwork and cooperation.”
“What is popular is not always right, what is right is not always popular”
“Create flexible organizations that reward creativity.”
“Provide leadership for change.”
“Create win-win solutions”
“If change were easy, it wouldn’t be so fun!”
May, Tranter and Warn (2011) argue that current road safety programs and thinking are based on existing professional and institutional practices. They make a distinction between deep sustainable change, which may requires fundamental redesign of the systems involved, and shallow adaptive change which does not. They discuss examples of deep change discussed including the application of mobility management as a traffic safety strategy, a strong shift to more active travel and public transport, and a reconsideration of how time is structured in society with the adoption of Slow Cities principles. Transformational leadership can draw on a variety of “knowledge cultures” which all share in collective decision-making.
TransManagement (2005) describes the following examples of successful cooperation among transportation planning organizations:
Montgomery County, Maryland: The availability of federal and state grant funding served as one of many catalysts for the development of a multimodal operations center with centralized computer-aided bus dispatch and traffic signal control. The initial collaboration occurred between two divisions of the Montgomery County Department of Public Works and Transportation that had responsibilities for road operations and transit services. Growing demands to centralize transit operations, an established culture of innovation in traffic management services, the availability of federal and state funding, and strong leadership from top agency management caused this collaboration to occur and to thrive up to the present.
New York City: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1986 formed a voluntary partnership of the key operating agencies in the New York region to act as a mechanism to exchange information on construction schedules. This original collaboration has now evolved into a regional information clearinghouse that disseminates system performance information to 16 member agencies and 100 affiliates, as well as serving as a test bed for the application of new technologies. The reasons for forming and the continuing evolution of TRANSCOM were primarily the mutual perception of a regional need (and avoidance of embarrassment when different agency construction projects conflicted) and the perception that information exchange, especially between transportation operators and emergency management agencies, needed a common home. This was especially found to be true in the regional response to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, where TRANSCOM was credited with providing important coordination and communication capabilities.
Houston, Texas: In 1993, the Texas DOT, the region’s transit authority, the City of Houston, and Harris County formed a partnership called TranStar to serve as a forum for planning, designing, and operating the region’s transportation system. All of the region’s operating and enforcement agencies are part of this collaboration. The catalysts for this effort included a strong transportation professional desire to coordinate transportation system management in Houston, the existence of a regional “champion” in the form of Houston’s mayor, and the existence of a federal demonstration project that required more formal inter-organizational agreements as a prerequisite for receiving program funds.
Oregon: In 2000, the Oregon DOT announced the creation of a statewide origin-destination public mode trip-planning information system. In developing this system, the DOT developed a collaborative planning structure with the state’s transit operators and with public health providers who viewed this program as a critical element in reaching out to those in need of health services. The initial catalyst for this effort came from middle-level staff members who thought such a coordinated approach to trip information would be beneficial to the citizens of Oregon.
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This Encyclopedia is produced by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute to help improve understanding of Transportation Demand Management. It is an ongoing project. Please send us your comments and suggestions for improvement.
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