The Learning Curve

At each step on your career ladder, you are on a learning curve. Ideas, knowledge and opinions evolve constantly. Unfortunately, some people either do not believe change is occurring, can't cope with adapting or think their point of view is always correct. Then there are those who jump on every fad whether change is necessary or not. Neither extreme is conducive to good management. But how can you tell what changes are beneficial?

The first rule: know thine own operation. Define your operation's purpose, its goals and the strategies for achieving those goals.

Evaluate your resources, including financial, political, personnel, equipment, etc. What kind of services do your customers want and what will they support? If you provide services they don't know they need, how can you convince your customers to want them? Knowing these answers will provide a foundation for future plans.

You also can find out what others are doing by calling people in nearby communities that have similar operations. Find out what new technologies are available by reading solid waste publications and joining industry networking groups. Universities and government agencies also may have informa- tion pertinent to your field. And industry suppliers will explain their latest equipment and technology.

Your comprehensive plan should include strategies to provide better service. It also should provide fiscally workable, cost-effective proposals so that everyone feels they are getting more and better service than before.

Once you have your base of knowledge and a strategic plan for change, you must bring your ideas to those you want to educate and influence. But first ensure that your employees see you as competent by showing that you appreciate what's important to them. Once you know their goals, personalities and perspectives at least well enough to couch proposals in language that won't alienate them, you can apprise them of your vision to make their jobs easier.

Show your plan to your bosses. Doing more with your resources, making clear, logical budget proposals and arguments backed by facts and pro/con perspectives can prove to them you are a knowledgeable manager.

Once your plan is in place, you can begin to change effectively by being aware of what others are doing, especially those who propose they can do things better, cheaper and with less hassle. Competition from privatization, a larger company or a more innovative competitor always is lurking in the shadows.

As a protection against complacency, you should make yourself aware of new technology, what is happening in your industry and how others are coping in similar environments.

Remember, you're not just a machine that should be content to always stay the same. You got your job because someone believes you have the intelligence, drive and caring to change when it's beneficial.