Posts Tagged ‘hmmh’

My 9-11 Heroes

Friday, September 9th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I must admit that there’s been so much hype leading up to the 9/11 anniversary that I’ve been dreading the idea of reading yet another blog post on the subject, much less writing one.  But here I am.

My daughter (who was four years old in 2001) came home from high school yesterday with an assignment to “interview someone” on the impacts of 9/11 on America, her parents, etc.   As is often the case with her homework, I deflected the responsibility to my husband, who railed about George Bush’s response that day and the loss of civil liberties that we’ve experienced since.

One of the questions in my daughter’s interview was whether we knew anyone who was directly affected.  So over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about my two 9/11 heroes, and how their lives were changed forever:

  • Betty Desrosiers is Director of Aviation Planning and Strategy for Massport.  I’ve known her for many years, and our professional lives most often intersect at public meetings or other venues where Betty (and Massport) are working to mitigate the impacts of Boston Logan Airport (or Hanscom Field) on the surrounding communities.  Which includes noise, of course.   As part of her strategic planning responsibility, Betty developed Massport’s Family Assistance Center, which quickly fills a critical void in an emergency by providing information, aid, comfort and compassion to friends and family of individuals involved in a transportation disaster. Betty activated and directed the Family Assistance Center at Boston Logan on 9/11 and maintained the center for many days after the terrorist attack.  
  • Mike O’Neil was my first real boss and mentor.  In 1979, I was a counselor at Camp Marycrest in Grande Isle (VT) and Mike was Head of the Waterfront.  I learned much from Mike: how to tie a bowline, how paddle a canoe well enough to teach campers (my first practice at consulting, I guess), and other extra-curricular activities that the camp nuns shouldn’t have known about (but somehow did).  I lost touch with Mike for many years, but we reconnected at a Marycrest reunion a couple of years ago (turns out he also got a lot out of that summer, most importantly meeting his wife).  Mike has served as Fire Chief in both South Burlington and Burlington, and is now Emergency Management Director for the State of Vermont (a busy job the last couple of weeks in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene!).  In 2001, though, Mike worked at Ground Zero for four weeks, starting on 9/12.  Mike’s reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s death and his story was chronicled in the Burlington Free Press

It occurs to me that what I’ve chosen to remember about 9/11 is not the pain or fear caused by the attacks, but the humanity and goodness demonstrated by so many people in their response to that day.  That is what patriotism means to me.  And this post is for them.


Transit Noise and Vibration Training Course

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

by Lance Meister

The National Transit Institute is offering a three-day course on transit noise and vibration impact assessment.  The course is based on the FTA Noise and Vibration Impact Assessment guidance manual and will run from September 19-21 in Baltimore, MD.  Information about the course can be found on the HMMH website.  You can sign up to take the course at the NTI website.

Having taught the course a number of times, I can say that the majority of the students find it very valuable and worth the time and expense.  Check out some student testimonials here.  The course covers much of the material in the manual, including:

  • noise and vibration basics
  • screening and general assessments
  • introduction to the detailed assessment
  • construction noise and vibration
  • use of the FTA noise model

We have class exercises reflecting real-world scenarios to help with the learning experience.  In addition to the instructors from HMMH that will be in Baltimore, there will be a representative from FTA to assist with the policy discussions.

Finally, at the end of the third day, we offer an open forum for class participants to discuss their projects and any noise or vibration issues they may have.  This is an excellent opportunity to get advice on project specific concerns from experts in the field.

Space is limited, so sign up now.  We look forward to seeing you in Baltimore!

The Best Clients to Work With

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

by Nick Miller

I’m at the age where I have to get my eye glasses prescription changed every couple of years.  I did that two weeks ago, got the lenses and found they were worse than what I’d started with.  They’re bifocals and the near lenses forced me to get closer to the material – books, computer screen, etc. – than I care to.  I went back and worked through the problems and got a replacement pair that’s just right.  What happened?  The first time I went, I just answered the standard questions:  Better here or there?  Better number 1 or number 2?  I’d assumed the eye doctor was doing the right thing.  Little did I realize that her notion of proper reading distance was different from mine.

Common, yet unfortunate; I, the client, shouldn’t assume the expert knows what to do.  So also when I’m in the role of the expert, I don’t want the client depending on me to make all the decisions.  I want the client to ask questions, to respond to my suggestions critically.  It is clients who really get involved with the problem that are the best to work with.  Chances are, we’ll all be happier with the results if the effort was done as a partnership, not from the perspective that the expert has all the answers.

Solar Guide for Airports Released

Monday, December 6th, 2010

by Steve Barrett

I am very happy to tell you that the FAA has formally released the “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports”, also known as the Solar Guide.  The Solar Guide is the FAA’s central reference for solar development projects.  For airports interested in exploring solar opportunities, the Guide provides information on appropriate siting, required approvals, and options for funding.  For FAA staff, it provides guidance on technical reviews of issues like glare and radar interference and what type of information may be appropriate to address those concerns. 

Over the past six months,I worked with Dr. Jake Plante from the FAA’s Airport Planning and Environmental Division to draft the Guide.  Phil DeVita and Bob Miller provided critical research and review to make sure the Guide was up to HMMH’s professional standards of quality.  Several other members of HMMH’s technical and communications staff also contributed to the final product.   I think you will find the Solar Guide to be a very easy to read document that will facilitate better communications between aviation and energy groups with a mutual interest in developing solar, as well as enhancing and streamlining the regulatory review and approval of future airport solar projects.

Thank you for your service

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I protested the Gulf War.  Both of them.  But my post today is about the military, and what I think we can learn from them.

You might ask why.  Well, first of all, it’s Veteran’s Day today, and while not an official HMMH holiday, it is certainly on my mind.  So before I go any further, I’d like to acknowledge HMMH’s veterans.  They are: Nick Miller, Bob Miller, Bob Behr, and Everett Heller.  Thank you all for your service.

One of the reasons I have been thinking about “military heroes” over the last few months is because despite my tendency toward pacifism, I find myself often in the company of veterans and increasingly admire them, not only for their service, but also for some of the traits that endear them to me.  This became very clear to me this summer, when Steve Barrett and I had the pleasure of entertaining a few clients over dinner – unconsciously, it turns out that I had invited three former military helicopter pilots.  Dan Frazee from San Diego Regional Airport Authority, who was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and subsequent Marine 1 helicopter pilot for Gerald Ford; Bill Willkie of CH2M HILL was a navy helicopter pilot in the post-Vietnam era, and Roy Fuhrmann of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is still an active reservist, and most recently served in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  All three flew different aircraft, different missions, and served in different conflicts but the things they share are remarkable:  to a man, they are gentle, humble, and soft-spoken.  They are thoughtful, unflappable, reliable, and relentlessly positive – I don’t know that I’ve ever heard one of them gossip or complain even the tiniest bit – somewhere along the lines I think they have just learned that life may be too short to waste time on negative “stuff”.   In any case, it seems they have their priorities in the right place and I have much to learn from them.

Harvard Business Review Cover

Harvard Business Review Cover

As it turns out, Harvard Business Review has been thinking about this as well, and this month devoted an entire issue to “Leadership Lessons from the Military”.   There are several excellent articles in this issue, and I will attempt to summarize one or two key thoughts here:

First, the notion of common mission and purpose.  What is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the company.  Mission must come first, self-interest last.  Creating company value, not the pursuit of private value, should drive leadership actions.  To that end, here’s a good opportunity to revisit HMMH’s mission statement:

HMMH solves complex problems affecting our environment. We develop and apply innovative technical tools, communicate effectively, and delight clients.

How are we doing on that mission statement?  Our diversification into areas such as renewable energy and NextGen environmental planning confirm for me that we’re on the right track.  HMMH is committed to our expansion in these areas – it is the future of the company, and we’ll continue to support our investments in these areas – they have already seen strong returns – and I am convinced that is why we have not had layoffs over the last couple of years while most of our peers in the industry have.  Over the last year or so, I’d say we’ve had mixed success in the tools department:  our new onboard sound intensity measurement system is a great example of teamwork, learning from others’ experience, and focused deployment of resources.  On the other hand, our corporate risk-aversion and too deliberate decision-making process has significantly slowed our uptake of new technology, such as cloud computing.   I believe we need to rededicate ourselves to innovation.  We still “delight clients” as evidenced not only by our improved Dun & Bradstreet Client Satisfaction survey, but also the Zweig White Best Companies to work for survey, in which HMMH staff indicated that being a client-focused organization is of extreme importance.

HBR also had a long article on how strategies for negotiation in high-risk military environments can be employed effectively in business.  We often are engaged in high-stakes conversations – with clients, in public meetings, or even within HMMH.  I found it quite interesting, and think it’s worth sharing a summary of the five strategies they identified:

1.  Get the Big Picture:  When engaged in high stakes conversation or negotiation, start by soliciting the other point of view.  What you learn will help shape objectives of the discussion.  On the client front, one step we’ve taken is to conduct a client interview at project initiation as part of our client satisfaction survey process.

2.  Uncover and collaborate:  By learning the other party’s motivation and concerns, we will be in a much stronger position to propose solutions and invite our clients and colleagues to improve upon them.  Instead of asking “What do you want?” we should be asking “Why is that important to you?”  Some of the discussion at our leadership retreat over the next couple of days will be trying to get at exactly those questions, to enable us to work more effectively as a team. 

3.  Elicit Genuine Buy-in:  Use facts and the principles of fairness, rather than brute force, to persuade others.  Instead of close-mindedness, we should appeal to fairness, by asking “What should we do?”

4.  Build Trust First:  This means dealing with relationship issues head-on and making commitments to encourage trust and cooperation.  I was at the Airport Consultants Council Annual Conference this week.  Ron Peckham – C&S’s President and CEO and this year’s ACC president has a number of favorite quotations.  One of them that always resonates (and which he used on Monday) is this:  A careful conversation is a wasted conversation since it hindered a robust conversation that wanted and needed to happen.  

5.  Focus on Process:  Consciously change the game by not reacting to the other side.  Take steps to shape the negotiation process as well as the outcome.  In high-stakes negotiations, we naturally want to avoid harm to ourselves or constituents; this often creates pressure to give in on critical issues.  The resulting agreement, however, may create an exposure to risk far beyond the immediate threat. 

My takeaway from the military, then is this:  we need to remain true to our mission and be sure that everyone knows and understands it.  In addition, we need most importantly to stay true to our values, which have not changed through all our new initiatives:

  • Serve Clients
  • Be Honest
  • Respect Others
  • Build Value
  • Use Teams
  • Seek Growth
  • Have Fun