Causeways (a series): business insight from the world’s most celebrated bridges

I’ve always had a fascination with bridges and have just recently discovered how instructive they can be about what it takes to develop long lasting and strong business relationships.  Not only are the analogies with bridges seemingly endless, but they also conjure creativity, passages and adventure. Thank you for joining me in this adventure into what bridges can teach us about constructing solid, profitable, enduring business relationships.

business insight from the world’s most celebrated bridges – a series

What is a bridge?  In its physical form, it’s a path to get from point A to point B, and is typically constructed to solve for an obstacle (water way, ravine, busy highway, unstable ground) that otherwise was obstructing the direct path. It provides efficiency and safe passage. The nonphysical bridge between two parties operates much the same way, except that there are typically multiple obstacles and the path is anything but linear. For simplicity and more interesting history, this series will focus on physical bridges.

Now for a couple more foundational notes:  Analogies and metaphors from the stories of famous international bridges will be made to inform on a variety of types of business development in this series. With more than 20 years experience in developing business for all manner of value in an organization (revenue, distribution, attribution, sponsorship, shared customer engagement, community building, etc.), I will generally refer to the activities as business partnerships.

©2016, All rights reserved /
To be clear, you do not have permission to take material from my blog and run it on yours.

Research sources vary and include:
Dupre?, Judith. Bridges. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 1997. Print.
Images not credited are in the public domain.

Shared vision: San Francisco Golden Gate and public-private partnerships

Golden Gate Bridge

Shared vision: Golden Gate, San Francisco, CA USA

During the Great Depression, the world’s then longest suspension bridge (4200 feet) was constructed to connect San Francisco to Marin County. To finance the bridge, six counties agreed to collectively take out a $35 million bond that would later be repaid through bridge tolls. As part of the bond, residents would be required to put their homes, farms and businesses up as collateral to support the bond and building of the bridge. The citizens voted 3 to 1 in favor of the bond, demonstrating their desire and faith in the project. The Golden Gate opened to pedestrians on May 27, 1937 and to cars the following day, May 28.

Can you imagine trying to get agreement from six counties and thousands of residents in an era of great financial hardship with much fewer means of communication than we have at our fingertips today?

The Golden Gate holds a special place in my memories. I grew up in Marin County and the bridge has and always will be a symbol of my passage from childhood to adulthood. After high school, I left Marin, crossed the Golden Gate and entered UC San Diego to start my adult life. While I still have family in Marin and two sons in San Francisco, I’ve never moved back home, but love to visit and marvel every time I see or cross the Golden Gate.

What does the Golden Gate teach us about public-private partnerships?

  • Create a shared  and compelling vision
  • Carefully consider all the various constituents who have a stake in the project’s success or failure and understand how the result will affect them – both real and sometimes imagined.
  • Have patient, ongoing discussions to bring each stakeholder into the shared vision and mission for the project, recognizing that it’s a process that may take years
  • Openly acknowledge the important financial, technical and operational risk that each stakeholder is assuming with the project
  • Listen, listen, listen and understand all points of view
  • Respond in a tangible way that says “your voice was heard and we listened”
  • Bring different groups of stakeholders together to build mindshare and trust
  • Develop community engagement thru town hall meetings, design reviews, ongoing communiqués and positive news stories and interviews

Tell us about one of your public-private partnership experiences.

Part of a series: Causeways-business insight from the world’s most celebrated bridges
©2016, All rights reserved /
To be clear, you do not have permission to take material from my blog and run it on yours.


The Next 30 Days

With 30 days left in Hiya’s Medicare/Medicaid coverage for care facility stay, I was concerned for Hiya.  Where would she go?  How could she even physically muster enough energy to move out of the facility?  We both researched and called other facilities, but were not overly concerned about it as you might think we needed to be.  Perhaps we thought a miracle would happen or that the 30 days would outlive Hiya.

In any case, the 30 days came and apparently without a court order or nasty-gram from Medicare or comment by the care facility staff.  When I asked Hiya as to whether she had received notice from the agency, she brushed the question aside as if it wasn’t worth her energy to answer it.  To this day, I don’t know if the deadline had truly been acknowledged or not.  I can only assume that the care facility made a management decision, and a compassionate one at that, to let Hiya remain in the facility for her remaining days, without coverage or reimbursement to the facility. Perhaps there is some humanity in managed healthcare after all.

Not everything stayed the same however.  Attitudes among the staff and head caregivers seemed to change; interactions became more contentious and Hiya was left to wait longer and longer before requests for aid were answered.  At least this is the story I received from Hiya.  Of course, when I was visiting I didn’t see any of this lack of attention.  The only clue I had was the eyeball to eyeball look between me and the charge nurse mutually acknowledged that “yes,” Hiya was demanding and a handful.

And, why shouldn’t she be demanding? It was her life she was fighting for.  Other than the weekly visits from me, there was no one else spending time with her to fight for her and with her.  A self-advocate for all her adult life, Hiya knew what she needed and knew what the care team should be capable of.   Getting them to deliver was the challenge.

One example of this was shower time.  Hiya refused to shower in the facility unless it had been properly cleaned and disinfected.  Before selecting the shower stall she would have staff wheel her into each one so that it could be inspected.  If it had any remaining hair near the drain or smelled remotely organic, Hiya would quickly disqualify it.

On one weekend when she desperately wanted to shower and staff had not come to help her do the stall to stall inspection, I wheeled her around.  Although none of the stalls truly measured up to satisfaction, I did come upon a solution.  You see it was Hiya’s aversion to her bare feet touching the shower stall floor that was the primary reason for her concern.  She did not want to contract any more disease from anyone.

After a short trip to CVS/pharmacy for two pair of plastic, industrial looking sandals, Hiya was finally able to comfortably select and take her showers. Sometimes solutions come easiest to those of us on the outside looking in.