That approach might serve maintenance and engineering managers well in many situations, but there are times when stepping out of the shadows is the best strategy. These situations occur most often when managers need to explain the role their departments play or to make the case for investing in facilities and maintenance. In these cases, managers can do their departments a huge favor by becoming their own best marketing asset.
Our cover article this month, “Funding for the Next Generation” by Associate Editor Chris Matt, offers a glimpse into one department where managers, in addition to their more traditional responsibilities, serve as the public face of the department and their organization.
The managers, who work in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District just outside of Portland, Ore., have been key players in the district’s successful efforts to convince voters to approve bond measures to fund school repairs and construction. The result of their efforts speak for themselves: The district has passed six bond measures since 1979 and is working on passing a seventh.
Tim Woodley, the school district’s director of operations, speaks from experience in explaining the department’s strategy of communicating with the public in asking for support.
“I’ve built schools in other districts and knew the struggles they went through to get a bond passed,” Woodley says. “Year in and year out, school districts tend to focus internally rather than externally. There are no big-vision goals and things that excite a community.”
What is his role?
“We have a very open, running dialogue constantly of things that are happening. That organizational arrangement allows my work to respond in a real way. I’m never out of the loop on anything, and I never let anyone else be out of the loop on anything. We have a very robust network system here.”
Such a visible role is not for everyone and is not called for in every organization. But the concept makes sense. Who else in your organization is as qualified as you are to explain the wisdom of supporting facilities construction, renovation and maintenance?