Post-PIE thoughts: What are we managing?


Post-PIE thoughts: What are we managing?

 If you are a manager of parking, do you have the feeling that the job is changing almost every day?
The technology seminars and hallway discussions at the 2015 Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE) in suburban Chicago reinforced my thoughts about the real responsibilities of those who manage parking and related functions in the various entities that form what we call the “parking industry”. 
More than 25 years ago, Chance Management Advisors (CMA) coined the term “Access Management” for what parking managers were managing. As we worked with our institutional and municipal clients, it was clear that those responsible for parking were increasingly held accountable for a wide variety of other functions –- transportation systems, wayfinding, signs, carpooling, vanpooling, car-sharing, etc. 
They were becoming responsible for all the functions that affect how individuals get to and from their selected destinations. In some cases, the functions were closely related, but in others, administrators didn’t know where to put the functions, so they gave them to parking to manage. (I’m sure this is a familiar story for some of you reading this.) 
Now, added to those functions we at CMA originally included Access Management, we can add technology specification and selection, social media strategies, public information campaigns, fleet management, loading and logistics responsibilities, special event programming and management, ADA oversight, environmental assessment and improvement implementation, specialized transportation and ? ? ? ?
Who is leading?
As with all other industries, Parking Management has been revolutionized by the introduction of sophisticated technologies, especially over the past 10 years. Many directors and managers now have organizations populated with not only “street-smart” operating staff, but also “tech-smart” administrative staff. 
Earlier in our industry, those with hands-on operating experience in parking garages, on-street parking, or operating experience in a similar environment were leading parking organizations. Now, they are increasingly adding to organizational leadership with tech-smart individuals (or they are becoming more tech-smart themselves) who lead various projects involving new technology, updating technology, starting new social media programs, or coordinating technology with other departments in the organization. 
The increasing importance of technology allows for more leaders at different levels in an organization. This promotes competency, responsibility and more opportunities for excellence. It is important to note, however, that knowing a lot about technology doesn’t necessarily mean you know a lot about parking.
Explaining new technology and its role to your staff is both necessary and often difficult. At PIE 2015, where CMA delivered a seminar on technology and operations, I asked the audience how many individuals had gone to one or more seminars about EMV. All hands were raised. Then I asked how many people understood the issues and what they needed to do. Not a hand was raised. (If you don’t know what EMV is, download a presentation from PIE!)
Informing staff members about EMV requirements, what they will mean to revenue control and payment systems, and what needs to be done will be a complex job for many managers. 
‘Who’s zoomin’ who?’
(Look up Aretha Franklin’s hit song if you’re not familiar with the phrase!)
The introduction of new requirements and technologies has also brought with it a share of pretenders. If you were at PIE a couple of years ago and heard the excellent keynote address from Todd Myers of the Washington (state) Policy Center, you know that claims made about environmental issues and programs to address them are not always on the side of the angels. 
Myers’ book “Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism Is Harming the Environment,” illustrates a variety of examples where ameliorative programs and touted improvements did nothing positive and, in some cases, produced negative results.
Likewise, managers these days have to be very careful as they research and eventually purchase new technology or technological services. Some vendors do not themselves understand the complexity of what is required for EMV, for example, but they may indicate “all is well” anyway. 
What you see is not always what you get in technology, and research, checking with colleagues, and getting sound advice have never been more important.
Avoiding being “zoomed” these days is nearly a full-time job. But it is absolutely necessary if a leader is going to maintain credibility in the organization and in the job.
Who’s Following (you)?
These days, this question has a number of meanings. Who’s “following” you on Twitter? Which ad tracker programs are “following” your interests for targeted advertisements? Or who’s following your e-mails: your recipients or “Big Brother?” 
For our purposes, however, let’s talk about being “followed” in terms of your leadership. Are members of your organization following you as a leader?
The ancient Chinese philosopher and poet Lao Tzu (aka Laozi) is quoted as saying, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: We did it ourselves.” 
Laozi really is speaking to one of a leader’s greatest responsibilities: unleashing his or her team’s creative potential. And by extension, this implies that the leader communicates a vision, encourages staff to meet objectives, imparts responsibility, and guides the team members toward a shared objective. 
If you are leading your team through some of the technological minefields these days, how can you be the most effective?
Some ideas for Action
• Readily admit what you don’t know, and avoid compounding the confusion by giving an impression that you do know when you don’t.
• Obtain good information from original or reliable sources, hold seminars with your key staff on the details, and hold meetings with all staff to explain what is coming and why. The numbers of managers and staff who do not understand the technology they have now is legion. When new technology is added to the mix, the lack of understanding only magnifies.
• If you are in a large organization, there are many other departments and individuals with whom you need to coordinate. If you are not doing this regularly, start now. Not only can you benefit from “sharing the pain,” you can collaborate on how to improve implementation in the future.
• Conduct a new or update an old SWOT analysis on your organization. In the current circumstances, what are its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. They may be quite different from what they were only a couple of years ago. Once you have identified these, start work on a strategic plan to address the weaknesses and threats, and make the most of the opportunities and strengths.
Parking managers, or Access Management managers, as we would call them now, have increasing opportunities for improving mobility, bringing rational approaches to logistics and special events, making parking easier and more efficient, and supporting various aspects of the transportation realm. 
As you are leading your organization, don’t forget that technology is one of the most important means, but it’s not the end. 
Barbara Chance is President and CEO of
Chance Management Advisors. Contact her at 
Article contributed by:
Barbara J. Chance
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