Saturday, August 9, 2014

What lies beneath

There are many aspects of our BAS work that are not obvious to the eye. Whether it is inside a fire alarm, beneath the campus streets, inside the door locks, or under the hoods of our campus vehicles, we care for many systems that lie beneath the surface. The In My Shoes day with teammates in the Building, Utility and Fleet Services department revealed countless ways in which we steward the unseen. Here are some of the lessons I learned from my day with these colleagues.

Looking down one of the manholes where some of our colleagues
venture to maintain the unseen systems below ground

Testing our work
We are responsible for many life safety systems across campus. These are systems that we hope we never have to use, but we must ensure they are ready if need be. During this In My Shoes experience, I worked alongside my teammates as they tested various fire alarm systems. They let me test some myself. It is critical that we test all of our BAS systems, whether they be policies, programs, or processes. We must ask ourselves what the intent of our systems are and then test to see whether they are achieving their desired ends. We also must test our assumptions of what students, faculty and staff need and how we have structured our systems to meet those needs.

I had the chance to test one of our fire alarm systems.

Our decisions have impacts
When testing some of the fire alarm systems, I noticed one that was high up in the ceiling past a plethora of pipes and other systems. It was evident that when this room was designed, there had not been much thought given to the fact that someone would have to access and test the alarm. This serves as a perfect symbol to remind all of us that our BAS work is interconnected with a multitude of other units within our division and outside our division. Decisions we make early on in designing our processes and procedures have impacts later down the road. It is critical that we engage our colleagues who have roles in the various stages of our processes to ensure we are taking into account how our decisions affect their work.

Making connections
At one point in my experience, I worked with our colleagues who design and build some of the many building management systems on campus. They have to use a lot of logic as they think about how to design these systems. During my time with them, I had the chance to design a program that turned on a light switch across the room. It was quite a high-five moment for me when I saw the program I built (with A LOT of mentoring) turn on that light. As we design our BAS systems and procedures, we need to think about every step in the process. We need not lose sight of the desired outcome and we have to figure out the design that will get to that outcome in the least cumbersome and most straightforward manner. This speaks directly to our "Stewardship as our Guidepost and Simplification as a Value" framework I discussed in previous communications.

Jerry teaching me how to program a light switch
Looking out for our teammates
Our campus electricians put their lives on the line as they test and repair the high voltage electrical systems on campus. While their subject matter expertise is their greatest asset in ensuring their safety, another vital asset is teamwork. Every time one of our electricians works on a utility box, there is a series of steps he has to follow. Skipping a step could result in injury or major damage to our electrical network. When I was working with these colleagues, I observed that as each electrician did a step, he had a partner verbally confirming the action and next step. Communication and teamwork keep these colleagues safe. No matter what unit we work in, communication and teamwork also are two of the most valuable tools we have to achieve our work in BAS.

Working through a series of steps and receiving verbal confirmation of
each action

Balancing competing priorities
There are points in time where our BAS work involves competing priorities. These are points where two values or needs collide and we have to strike the right balance. Stewardship of our environment and stewardship of the resources entrusted to us can present competing needs. This was evident in our Fleet Services unit. These colleagues are responsible for maintaining the vehicles that transport our community members. Whether it is the vanpool vehicles, various work trucks, or heavy equipment, it is vital that these vehicles are safely maintained. Not only do we have to protect the lives of those traveling in these vehicles, we also must protect the investment made in this equipment. At the same time, we have to protect our physical environment. Currently, we are all keenly aware of how precious our water resources are. Water, however, is a key resource to ensure our equipment is maintained and safe.  Fleet Services balanced these needs by installing a closed-loop water recycling wash bay system. This was a joint effort in 2013 and involved many campus units. Water is recycled through the biodigester system and microbes eat contaminants (such as oil). Not only does this system save water, it prevents contaminants from entering into city systems. I got to try the system as I washed down one of our pieces of equipment.

Cleaning one of our engines using the closed-loop water recycling
system at the washbay

I had a wonderful and educational experience during the In My Shoes day with my colleagues in the Building, Utility and Fleet Services department. Thanks to each of them for the patience they showed as I learned about their operations and the engagement and pride they showed in their work.

A slug I am,

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