Archive for May, 2008

Providing Information to Stakeholders: Singapore Bus Services

Posted by Peter on May 18 2008 | Case Studies

Bus_Stop

This morning I noticed a new feature at my favourite Tanah Merah bus stop: An information panel showing arrival times of buses. The information is intended to “help commuters better manage waiting time and transfers, and make more informed travel decisions”, says the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA).

LTA installed the first 30 real-time bus arrival information panels in July 2007, followed by customer surveys. Nine out of ten commuters polled felt that the panels were useful and important, and hoped to see them at more bus stops. Based on this feedback, another 20 panels are now being installed.

For those interested in the technical details, data for the display panels is sent from the bus operator’s system via cellular-phone networks General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). The system uses the bus operator’s Automated Vehicle Management System (AVMS), which tracks all 2,850 SBS Transit buses in 222 services. The AVMS tracks the exact location of a bus on a given route,and monitors problems like bunching and buses which are too fast or early.

Lessons Learned for Project Stakeholder Management:

  1. If you are implementing a new service, it is best to perform an initial installation followed by stakeholder surveys. If the service is deemed to be useful, then incorporate any suggested changes and continue the expansion of the service.
  2. People like to have information made available. No more standing at a bus-stop with no idea when the next bus will arrive. This could apply to projects that you are running; always give people relevant, timely, useful information about what is happening, to enable them to feel in control of the situation.
  3. As usual, execution is everything. The information needs to be accurate to be useful. You will also hear some stakeholders grumbling about your service, as they now have the information to complain (”so the bus will arrive in 35 minutes - I can’t wait that long - why aren’t there enough buses?”). Be prepared to tackle these awkward questions that arise in response to the information you provide.

I’ve found that it’s always best to provide information than attempt hide it. We already knew that some buses were infrequent, so posting the information in public on a big display is actually a step in the right direction.

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How To Succeed with Project Stakeholder Negotiations

Posted by Peter on May 12 2008 | Articles

Negotiators

Good Project managers need the ability to succeed with project stakeholder negotiations, to help with effective decision-making.

A recent article in Psychological Science offers the latest research and some good advice that we can use in our negotiations.

Psychologist Adam Galinsky from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University of Illinois and his colleagues examined two related approaches to understanding one’s opponent in negotiations: perspective-taking and empathy. Perspective-taking is described as the cognitive power to consider issues from somebody else’s viewpoint (also known as ‘re-framing’), whereas empathy is the power to connect emotionally with people.

They conducted a series of experiments to test whether perspective-taking or empathy was the more useful technique, by enlisting the help of MBA students. The researchers first performed personality tests to assess the whether the students were more likely to be capable of perspective-taking, or having the ability to act with empathy.

Next they asked the students to play the part of buyer and seller to reach a deal in the buying and selling of a petrol station (or ‘gas station’). The twist is that the buyer’s maximum price was set below the seller’s reserve price, so the only way to get a deal would be to understand and investigate other options. The creative deal involved understanding that the seller needed the money to finance a sailing trip but would need a job on his return, whilst the buyer needed staff to run the petrol station.

Students who were ranked as ‘perspective-taking’ were more likely to successfully reach a deal. In contrast, higher scores on empathy tended to result in being less successful at reaching a creative deal.

Negotiators give themselves an advantage by thinking about what is motivating the other party, by getting inside their head” Galinsky said. “Perspective-taking gives you insights into how to structure a deal that can benefit both parties. But unfortunately in negotiations, empathising makes you more concerned about making the other party happy, which can sometimes come at your own expense.

This is very interesting, so how do we apply the lessons to project stakeholder negotiations? A useful place to look for tips would be in the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), using a technique known as ‘reframing’.

Reframing

Reframing describes changing the context or representation of a problem. For example if you are lying in bed and hear the bedroom door open, your reaction depends upon the frame of reference; are you expecting the kids to wander in, or could it be a burglar? Is that gunman a ‘terrorist’ or ‘freedom fighter’? Once you understand that everyone might have a different understanding of the same event, then you can take steps to increase your awareness and ability to take a perspective.

So if you want to succeed with project stakeholder negotiations, just don’t get emotionally involved with your opponent as this leads to the worst outcome.

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RFID Tags and Stakeholder Management

Posted by Peter on May 05 2008 | Articles

RFID Tag

RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) tags are now being used in many places around the world, although an article in Telecom Asia magazine about how to ‘kill’ your RFID tag made me think about how to communicate the benefits of this technology to the public.

RFID consists of an inexpensive wireless chip and antenna that can be read up to several metres away. The technology is typically used to track packages in transit or in factory production systems, cutting costs for manufacturers and retailers.

Since 1998, the National Library Board (NLB) in Singapore has been using RFID to tag all its books and automate the borrowing and returning process. More recently, the NLB has installed RFID readers in bookshelves of the library, enabling an operator to find out exactly which books are on the shelves.

ERP

The Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system in Singapore also uses ‘active’ RFID technology for the toll system to communicate with vehicles, whilst bus travellers use ‘passive’ RFID tags inside EZ-Link contactless smart cards to pay for their travel.

While the technology does offer some remarkable opportunities, it also raises some concerns with regard to individual privacy and possible espionage. These issues are discussed in more detail in the RFID Gazette, and is particularly relevant now that many countries have already adopted RFID tags into passports.

Telecom Asia makes the point that some consumers do not seem to have learned very much - or don’t like what they are hearing - about the benefits of the RFID technology, even though it has been around for a long time.

In Singapore the benefits of the EZ-Link card are quite obvious to all travelers, as they quickly get on and off the buses and trains but I wonder how the benefits of remotely-readable tagged passports will be communicated to the public?

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