I have known Dr Christian Roberts for a long time now after meeting with him on a project in the rail industry in Liverpool in the UK. He is one of the disciplines real theoricians, with a knack for getting things done. Every single time I get involved in the big issues surrounding rail Dr Chris is there somewhere; normally right in the center of it all. Notable in this is his time working with the London Underground, as well as his time with the ill fated Metronet contractor in the UK. Making his points of view some of the most unique in the game today. His time in leadership in some of the worlds leading rail companies, combined with his dedication to the Institute of Asset Management and its goals easily qualify him as one of the thought leaders in the discipline of physical asset management. And, like most people in our game, he is a heck of a nice guy also. Q1. The last time we spoke you had recently started trying to do some great things over at Metronet. Although in the infrastructure sectors, do you think there's any lessons there for asset managers globally? It’s been a while since we spoke! Just over two years ago I took on a lead role to develop Metronet’s Asset Management system. I had two roles – as Professional Head of Asset Management set out the overall Asset Management Strategy and advised discipline Heads on Asset Strategies and Asset Management Plans – as Programme Director for Metronet’s AMR Development programme I had overall responsibility for delivery of business and IM change and improvement projects, using both internal and external resources. It was definitely an interesting time for Metronet, but I would say despite the bad-press the company got, its performance was within what was to be expected. We have to remember that when Metronet took over the infrastructure there was little information to base decisions on and the infrastructure was in a very poor state. I‘m not saying they did everything right, but they had at least identified the need for improvement and put in place a not insignificant programme to develop its asset management capability. I often get asked about lessons learnt from my time in both Metronet Rail and London Underground (I was the Interim Head of Asset Management Development there for 18months). I guess the real lessons are: -
- Make sure key stakeholders are involved – we spent a lot of time in Metronet ensuring LU were on-board with our plans for asset management improvement. This really helped to gain support internally also as people could see their efforts were not wasted as the client was on board.
- Understand where you are and where your going – both in LU and Metronet, my roles were about developing a function within the company – setting out a clear future ‘blueprint’ is vitally important as it helps to drive through the change process.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – Communication is probably the most important lesson I would pass onto clients. It is absolutely vital that every is ‘on the same page’. Communicating through newsletters, briefings etc helps to achieve this.
- Boot Camp – Train all staff from a common starting point (from CEO down to at least Supervisor level) – and cultivate people rather than weed them out.
- Study the past – learn from yours and other organizations mistakes
- Create a sense of mission (the future blueprint for example) – issue a core values card (a mouse mat for example)
- Create a CEO’s reading list.
- Make the challenge to belong to the corporate – APPEAL