I am sure many of you have been noticing that PEI is now catching up with the rest of the world and installing more traffic circles or “roundabouts.” I highly commend this move. These efficient, traffic movers have been used for over 50 years in other countries.
It shows there is a change in mindset of government and planners that we can trust drivers to make appropriate decisions when entering intersections. Of course to succeed, driver training is absolutely necessary.
I first experienced the efficiency of roundabouts was in The Netherlands. I noticed that even during rush hour, there was very little traffic congestion. These traffic circles eliminated the need for stop lights and I was intrigued at how well they worked.
Most of North America uses traffic lights. This outdated paternalistic system takes decision-making from the people, assuming it will make traffic safer. However, when too many areas of oversight (traffic lights) are implemented, we get interrupted traffic flow and the enticement to disobey the traffic light “boss.”
There was a recent study done in Indiana where the City of Carmel replaced stoplights with roundabouts. Not only did traffic flow smoother, they experienced the following benefits:
- Repair and road construction dropped $125,000
- There was a reduction in gas use of over 24,000 gallon/year
- Accidents involving personal injury dropped 80%
- Total accidents dropped 40%
These roundabouts have also made it easier and safer for pedestrians and bicyclists to navigate. Indiana won an international award for this innovation. In the Netherlands, they use traffic circles almost exclusively, However, there are guidelines and drivers are properly trained. There is trust that everyone will follow the rules of respect and politeness to others. Because of that, traffic flows freely.
I believe this is a great metaphor for how organizations should be structured. Instead of the boss taking the attitude of “I know best,” which causes interrupted workflow by their constant monitoring, empower employees and give them more autonomy to keep the workflow moving efficiently.
Could an organization maintain efficiency using this model? We actually witnessed it at Microsoft in Amsterdam. There, employees are not required to be ‘desk-prisoners’ for eight hours a day. In fact, most do not even have assigned workstations ─ not even the managers.
People are trusted to do their work how and where they choose, and output among employees is shared through cloud computing. There are guidelines which govern how people share and respect each other’s time and personal working style. These procedures are followed, reviewed, and revised with input from all employee levels.
The workflow is not interrupted because every decision does not have to go through the manager (intersection). Employees discover their own problems and work together to find the best solutions. Even individual performance plans are shared with colleagues.
Increased efficiencies are achieved because the manager is not a “traffic light” causing workflow to stop and start. Employees are measured and compensated for the value of their output.
The PEI road system is trending towards more traffic circles. Can PEI organizations evolve to this model of trust in the workplace as well?
There are now studies that show, by implementing a more trusting workplace model, morale will increase, absenteeism will decrease, and working relationships will be enhanced. All this will result in happier people, higher productivity, and more satisfied customers.
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