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Make It Easy to Do the Right Thing

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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


Esri, the global leader in geographic information system (GIS) software, builds the most powerful mapping and spatial analytics technology available.

Content Discussion

Gordon Ziegler's picture
Gordon Ziegler

The secret non-reported Fukushima Daiichi Reactor radiation disaster ongoing has not only killed most of the sea life in the Pacific with unprecedented radiation levels, but the fatal radiation levels are now by Great Britain, with thousands of dead sea creatures washing up on the shores of Great Britain! This is not in the Pacific Ocean! This disaster indicates that the Fukushima radiation is a global threat of radiation extinction of life through radiation induced cancers and other diseases, or there are new radiation releases from Great Britain and/or Europe, which is highly likely. This should not be a surprise! The nuclear reactors now in service are old, nearing the end of their useful service. The longer they operate, the more hazardous they become, and more difficult their remediation. Operating nuclear reactors have greater safety risks than any other type of power plants--so high that the world should no longer tolerate it! There should be a universal demonstration movement demanding all operating nuclear reactors be controlled shut down! Anticipating this result, a 37 year old non-profit Washington State, USA Section 501 (c)(3) tax exempt corporation Benevolent Enterprises has already written a letter to all the American nuclear utilities offering to give a tax deductible receipt for the appraised value of old reactors as if they were safe, plus all their equipment and cash on hand for each reactor donated to Benevolent Enterprises. To that we would now add that there should be a $1.0 million donation to Benevolent Enterprises for each reactor transferred to Benevolent Enterprises for radiation mitigation and cleanup. And Benevolent Enterprises will then absolve each such utility for all further liability for radiation remediation and cleanup. Benevolent Enterprises has access to the theory of how to build Refreshers and Clean Energy Sources from existing nuclear power plants, and remediate all radioactive materials since World War II in 14.4 days Refresher machine time, as well as back out of existence all diseases, heal all the sick, and restore all destroyed buildings from forest fires, earthquakes. tornadoes and hurricanes and war damage. All current employees of the reactors should stay on for a 10% increase of their salaries under the new Benevolent Enterprises management.