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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 77 · No. 3 > Guest Editorial

November/December 2013
Vol. 77 · No. 3

Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-14-001

Guest Editorial

A Sense of Urgency Helps “Every Day Counts” Succeed

Photo. Headshot of Victor Mendez.A common belief is that delivering a major highway construction project typically takes 10 to 15 years. The goal of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative is to cut that time in half.

Over the past 4 years, the EDC staff has identified innovations that can help reach that goal, as well as others that enhance safety--both during construction and in the completed project--minimize congestion caused by construction, improve quality, and, where possible, save money.

The EDC approach involves asking teams of subject matter experts and other specialists to develop a plan for deploying the particular innovation they champion. They are allotted 2 years to implement the innovation. Before the clock starts ticking, ample time is provided to assemble the team, develop the plan, determine goals, and assign strategies. But once the clock starts, everyone involved knows that they are working within a limited timeframe. And, quite literally, every day counts.

This is not to say that at the end of 2 years the innovations are abandoned. In many cases, once the 2 years are up, the task of further promotion returns to the particular office within FHWA that sponsored the innovation in the first place. For example, for a safety-related innovation such as the Safety EdgeSM, a pavement edge treatment designed to mitigate crashes related to unintentional roadway departures, the task of ongoing promotion returned to FHWA’s Office of Safety, where it is being promoted at the local level as a proven safety countermeasure. On page 32 in this issue of Public Roads, an article titled “A Look Back at Moving Forward” discusses the successes achieved by several of the initial EDC innovations that FHWA selected in the 2010–2012 period.

The point is that all the deployment teams know exactly how much time they have, and at any point in the deployment process, they can easily calculate exactly how much time remains. Why is this important? First, if you leave the effort open ended, with no specific end point and no specific goals, the odds are high that any progress will be slow in coming. But a second, more important, reason is this: The EDC initiative is aimed at persuading people to change their attitudes, their culture. They might need to stop using some tool, process, or approach that they have grown comfortable with, and try something new.

In a Harvard Business Review article, “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail,” (originally published in March/April 1995), business professor John P. Kotter listed eight steps to transforming an organization. The first one was “Establishing a Sense of Urgency.”

Kotter wrote, “This first step is essential because just getting a transformation program started requires the aggressive cooperation of many individuals. Without motivation, people won’t help, and the effort goes nowhere.”

The 2-year lifespan of each EDC innovation provides that motivation. The results, as evidenced by the deployment statistics for the first wave of EDC innovations, attest to that.

Victor Mendez

Administrator

Federal Highway Administration

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