Rational Response #6: Account for the Second Life Cycle

Back in my days as an engineer, I was often part of interview teams going after municipal projects. In the multiple times we were interviewed, nobody ever asked us how to size pipe, how to select a pump or what type of asphalt mix would be the best fit for the local climate. Nobody was remotely interested in how good we were as engineers. All anyone wanted to know was how good we were at getting funding and what our experience was working with grant agencies.

We see this same thing any time a new city manager is hired or one decides to retire. The news report will generally include a list of the projects this person has successfully accomplished, the bigger and more complex the better. This is how we judge competence: the ability to make things happen, to get things done.

We are genius at putting projects together, but putting together a project is actually the easy part. Keeping it all running over the long term is much, much harder. And much less glamorous. I have far more respect for the city manager who had to make the tough decisions in a stagnating local economy than the one who simply had to manage the sheetrock rush.

If you want to build a strong town, you always have to consider the second life cycle. If your project might be viable during its second generation, but only if things work out as you plan, you are gambling. If it won't be viable in that second generation without unspecified outside assistance, then you are acting irresponsibly. A strong project is one that is viable today, tomorrow and long into the future.

Insist that the second life cycle is accounting for before you proceed.