Make It Easy to Do the Right Thing
The electric utility business is built around safety and excellent service to customers. We want to do things right. We need to do things right. However, our world and our utilities are rapidly getting more complex. As our work gets more complex, it becomes easier and easier to overlook something even if only for expediency. Whether you're working directly with energized high-voltage equipment or on a customer's energy efficiency rebate, getting things wrong has very serious consequences. Now, as many seasoned employees approach retirement, the workforce faces information overload, changing technology, and increasing customer expectations. All this makes it harder to get it right. Making it easy to do the right things is a very powerful notion.
According to Atul Gawande, in his book The Checklist Manifesto, the idea for a checklist came from Boeing engineers during the development of the B-17 bomber for World War II. They desperately needed to make it easier to do the right things. The B-17 was much more complex than all preceding aircraft and was nicknamed the Flying Fortress. This complexity meant that the pilots had to remember to do many new things as part of their process to safely take off in the mighty Flying Fortress. This new complexity also had serious consequences as they struggled to adapt to a new, more difficult way of flying. Sadly, some paid the ultimate price. After a fatal crash on takeoff, skeptics considered the B-17 too complicated and impossible to fly safely.
Boeing engineers came up with a great idea—make it easy for the pilots to do the right things. The preflight checklist was born, and it worked brilliantly. The B-17 was the first aircraft to use a simple checklist that is now commonplace in aviation. This simple concept enabled aviation to safely advance, with ever-increasing complexity, into the marvel we enjoy today. Gawande went on to also apply this idea in the operating room to dramatically improve surgical results by making it easy to remember the important steps. This idea saved thousands of patients' lives all over the world, demonstrating the power of making it easy to do the right things.
This thought of making it easy to do the right thing has tremendous value in all walks of life. I keep my daily personal items in a small pile near the door. My wife doesn't like the clutter, but I virtually always remember my things. I remember my keys, phone, glasses, and the coffee gift card from my birthday. I don't have to remember or hunt for them because they are right in front of me. This also applies to our employment and careers. Wouldn't everyone potentially benefit from an earned reputation of always getting it right and enabling others to do the same?
I worked for many years engineering electric utility work orders for construction and maintenance activities. We added new steps to this complex process every year and rarely ever stopped doing any steps. When I heard directives like "from now on, always remember to send copies of the prints to the phone company," I knew that without some tools, we would miss the mark. It's too easy to forget, and it was not easy to do the right thing. I created a paper notebook to help me. It contained not only a type of checklist but also details about information sources and contacts for sharing my results. I was making it easier to do the right things, even before personal computers. Today, the tools to address this need are far superior to a paper notebook.
Work Order Checklist Items
- Verify right-of-way or easements
- Check circuit and phase loading
- Notify affected customers
- Check with other departments for work in the area
- Notify the storeroom of large material needs
- Verify budget accounts
Nearly every element of the utility business involves location. Smart utility operations begin and end with location intelligence. Whether you work in engineering, customer care, logistics, or power supply, it's often difficult and time-consuming to find and relate the necessary information that comes from different systems, interfaces, and devices. After that information is assembled, it also needs to be referenced for the next use and shared with others that will also need it.
The ArcGIS platform gives all stakeholders the ability to access and share countless sources of vital business information. The platform gives utilities the ability to increase efficiency by eliminating wasted time and improve planning with better information. Finally, the ArcGIS platform fosters excellent communication and collaboration. So, the platform is like your little pile of stuff, all in one easy-to-find place. You see, it just makes it easy to do the right thing.
For more information on how the ArcGIS platform can help electric companies do the right things, see solutions.arcgis.com.