yes we can...Yes We Can...YES WE CAN!!!!!!
After a lengthy telephone conversation with yet another customer who felt as if he had spent an excessive amount of time exiting our garage -- after having spent a relaxing night at the theater -- we said, "OK, enough is enough!" It was obvious, by the increase in unpleasant telephone calls, that our original well-thought-out procedures had sprung a leak. It was obvious we had to improve our exiting process.
OK, for the sake of brevity, a little history on the subject: The newly renovated Hippodrome Theatre was presented as the best thing to hit Baltimore since the opening of the Ravens football stadium ... oops, I mean the M&T Stadium. To say the least, a lot was on the line. At the top of the list: my job, as well as my boss' job. Simply put, this entire parking operation had to be top-notch -- a mechanism that had no glitches (or, at least, no glitches that the layperson could see).
First and foremost was a meeting of the minds. Hence, a gathering of me and the three managers to devise a plan. Three major focuses came to fruition:
In addition to the already scheduled events the managers were currently working, we agreed that each of us would work a night performance for the next three consecutive weeks.
We would individually come up with some idea that would make exiting the facility more effective and efficient.
It would be the responsibility of the manager working the following night to implement the new idea and report on its effectiveness and efficiency.
This is what management is all about.
The first idea implemented was to have the event staff explain to the customer upon entry to have their parking ticket ready to speed up their exit. Also implemented was an idea that the staff came up with -- having the traffic control staff use a whistle to control the bottleneck at the garage crossover. (This particular garage is a double helix, which means it is really two garages in one.) The next idea was to hand out a sheet of paper reiterating to the customer to have their ticket ready when exiting. This paper also included information as to which garage elevator to use to access the theater.
The above-implemented ideas increased exiting traffic flow by 20 percent per 10 minutes.
As we approached the third and final week of our newly agreed upon plan, we scheduled a meeting to see if we were missing anything. A decision to work the final week in pairs was agreed upon. This had the potential of proving the old saying that "too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the food." Pleasantly surprised, we found this wasn't the case at all. Quite the contrary. Doubling up of management staff resulted in just the opposite effect, and more important, it resulted in a synergy (1+1=3)! Apparently, our efforts in the previous weeks proved fruitful, as this synergy resulted in finding the missing link in our goal of increasing the exiting flow of traffic (which included strategically placing two informational signs in appropriate sites).
This is graduate school management at its best, and I am sure this process happens in garages all the time. We in the parking industry need to recognize that we are no different from any other service industry -- except for the fact that we refuse to accept that we are no different.
Let me explain: The parking industry is not that dirty little business quoted by the Motley Fool as "an ugly business." This perception needs to change. The parking industry is a growing industry with professionals from all walks of life, such as engineers, architects, developers, human resources, electricians, managers, etc. More appropriately, the parking industry is a worldwide conglomerate. However, this perception will change only when we -- yes, we (everyone in the industry) -- work together to change it.
Robert Milner is the Director of Parking and Transportation for the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.