ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR SUSTAINABLE SERVICE DELIVERY: “Asset management isn’t a ‘core part’ of city government, it is city government,” wrote Duane Nicol, Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Selkirk, Manitoba (Winter 2022 issue of Asset Management BC Newsletter)

Note to  Reader:

Duane Nicol contributed the lead article in the January 2022 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter. He is the  Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Selkirk, Manitoba. He started his tenure as Selkirk’s CAO in 2014 with the idea that they were going to modernize city government. They were going to make Selkirk 2.0 and they were going to do that practically by investing in their people, processes, and technology, “and in that order” he would say. 

Implementing Asset Management is Situational

“I first met Duane Nicol when he presented at the 2019 Asset Management BC Conference and was impressed by his innovative approach,” states David Allen, Executive Director. Prior to his retirement from local government, David Allen was the Chief Administrative Officer with the City of Courtenay on Vancouver Island.

“As the CAO of a municipality for a community of 10,000 people I think he is in a ‘sweet spot’ of being able to have a more hands on approach to organizational change and direction. This combined with his AM training and ‘systems thinking’ approach has allowed him to take a direct part in the process of implanting organization wide asset management – that is, attending weekly asset management working group meetings.”

“I told Duane that I envied his ability to have this type of influence, something I couldn’t emulate at the City of Courtenay (pop. 27,000) with more staff and for me a larger span of control.”

“To some degree I was able to offset this by creating a Strategic Advisor position (filled by the very capable David Love) directly reporting to me. However, I did not have my hand on the tiller like Duane did, was not able to attend the regular Asset Management Working Group meetings and so could not steer the organization with the same nimbleness.”

“Like leadership, implementing asset management is situational,” concludes David Allen.

The  Way of Asset Management

“Our paradigms are the lens through which we see the world, the framework on which we build our understanding of how things SHOULD be, and the measuring stick by which we interpret success,” wrote Duane Nicol.

“Over the past seven years, the City of Selkirk has been slowly, methodically, and surely making asset management a core part of city government. This is the language we used in the by-law we passed which made doing asset management a legal requirement.”

“But that language is not accurate. It’s what we understood at the time and what we wanted citizens to understand. But it’s not exactly correct. Asset management isn’t a ‘core part’ of city government, it is city government.”

This is the level at which we need to take our implementation of asset management

“To use an analogy, asset management isn’t a new application offered by Microsoft Office Suite, it’s the Windows operating system itself. This sounds daunting. It is, if you look at it all at once and contemplate such change through our typical frames of reference like the annual budget or even a council’s term of office.”

“But if you extend your time horizon and embrace the idea that such a project is never actually complete, possibilities emerge. This level of change isn’t linear. There are tipping points. As you take methodical steps forward, you will find such tipping points and your organization will leap forward.”

Do Then Think

“We are much more emotional and habitual than we are prepared to admit. What researchers like Daniel Kahneman, Richard Thaler, and others studying cognitive biases and behaviour teach us, is that at the very least, the link between thinking and doing is iterative. What we do shapes what we think, just as much as what we think informs our actions.”

“This single idea makes the daunting notion of remaking municipal operations via asset management, not just possible, but manageable. To change the paradigm, given enough time, all you need to do, is change what you do and shape how people internalize the new behaviour.”


To read the complete article, download the Winter 2022 issue of the Asset Management BC Newsletter.