Joe Scuilli, CAPP

Some 22 years ago, a team of parking consultants completely turned around Washington, D.C.’s then-underperforming meter program in a relatively short time, implementing privatized meter installation, maintenance, and collection and counting functions for the District’s Bureau of Parking.

From March through August 1998, broken housings, faded domes, and decapitated and missing meters were replaced with 15,000 state-of-the-art, single-space electronic meters in vandal-resistant housings. A comprehensive revenue control system was implemented. In short order, parking turnover and compliance improved and naturally, meter revenues soared.

Six fundamental management principles that laid the foundation for that turnaround are described for you, below.

  1. Build Strong Procedures and Enforce Them Vigorously. Long before implementation, highly detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all activities were developed. Line employees and supervisors were instructed in the SOPs and were required to acknowledge them by signature. Compliance checks were completed daily and failures to comply were documented. Compared with past practices, performance (and revenue) improved, but employees who were unable or unwilling to comply either left voluntarily or were removed from the contract workforce.
  2. Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan. The team committed to an aggressive schedule for removing and replacing all meters. Reports were monitored daily and progress charts were kept. If an area’s installations fell behind for some reason, work crews were reassigned, and extra hours were scheduled until goals were realized. It was “management by objectives” in action.
  3. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. When too many new meters were programmed with incorrect rate and regulation periods, a person was added to oversee quality control—problem solved. Delays in centralized management systems were overcome by the quick development of stand-alone databases, replicating functionalities. Controls, forms, and procedures were constantly evaluated against practices, and modified as needed to promote revenue integrity, operational efficiency, and personal accountability.
  4. Ensure Management’s Field Presence. All team members were in the field daily and continued to be so through the end of implementation, scouting for problems, monitoring and inspecting work, and providing a visible management presence for employees.
  5. Double Check Everything and Everybody! There were no hurt feelings when it came to having your work double checked by a peer or supervisor, especially when concerning revenue controls and equipment transfers. Cross-checking was a way of life.
  6. Implement a “Lessons Learned” Philosophy. Roll calls and status meetings were used to review the good, the bad, and the ugly of the day’s or week’s activities. Lessons learned were documented and distributed. When necessary, advisory or corrective memos were issued, and special meetings were called.

Now, technology will always enhance operations. But you must remember this: the real key to success will always be found in Dooley Wilson’s lyric from that iconic song from the movie Casablanca: “the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”