Blog post:

Managing Change in Britain’s Buses

Pete Adney | September 15, 2014

Tags: Commercial operator | Change management |

Photo of a fleet of busesIt seems clear to me that our bus operators are undergoing a period of change. Squeezed by intense competition and continued economic pressures, a sense of ‘evolve or die’ has resulted in ever more efficient processes being implemented.

Fuelled by the need to be more dynamic and agile, the profile of the manager has also changed. The experienced bus man, driven by instinct, so common in the past is largely gone and has been replaced by younger, educated workers, often graduates, whose decisions are dictated by data and analysis.

What the new generation lack compared with their predecessors, of course, is the extensive industry experience: The kind of knowledge and understanding that can only be achieved through 20 years’ immersion in the daily workings of a bus company.

Perhaps this is why the role of computer supplier to the bus operator has changed to become more akin to that of a consultant. A couple of recent examples stick in my mind.

As part of the implementation of a driver self-service computer system I was asked to attend a driver union meeting on behalf of the client in order to explain the impact and benefits of the changes that were being introduced.

Aside from the positive outcome which saw those present move from nervous discomfort to excitement (“Can you do this and that?”) it was interesting and rewarding to know that our customer trusted us to represent them at such an important event.

On a similar note, another client added some 15 days’ consultancy to a proposed system installation project because they recognised what they needed wasn’t just software and associated training: They required guidance from someone who has seen similar processes over and over again; who could advise not on the system so much as the procedures they would need to put in place.

Other organisations approach change in different ways: One of the most impressive I have seen was by Cardiff Bus, when they also implemented our driver self-service system.

Understanding that the change in traffic office processes had the potential to alienate drivers, the team arranged a four-week long workshop to provide hands-on training and assistance.

Drivers were given a manual with their own personalised login details – but were made to sign to say they had received it so there were no excuses.

This was a process adopting both stick and carrot: A clear mandate to change, pushing new ways of working, was supported extensively and publicly across the company and the project was a huge success.  (Read more about Cardiff’s experience here).

Regardless of the approach taken, it seems to me our industry is becoming increasingly comfortable embracing change, with an ever improving recognition of the potential benefits, the costs and the processes involved – and doing a better job of adapting as a result.

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About Pete Adney

Pete Adney has worked in the bus industry for over 30 years: as a driver, inspector, assistant manager, manager, and business analyst. In his present role for Trapeze he forms the crucial connection between what the bus sector needs and technology can provide: on a daily basis that involves everything from system specification to implementation. He prides himself on strong customer relationships and feels fortunate to have been part of the bus industry for so long.

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