A KEANE EYE: Two-way streets

It seems that the sloper blade could be used to pull gravel out of the table drain while the conventional blade was grading the road surface; and with the sloper blade capable of being set at a different angle to the conventional blade, it was then possible to grade both slopes of the crown in one pass. As a consequence the grader could do in three passes what would normally be done in nine to 10 passes. On a really good day it could maintain up to 30km of road, and that was the good news for the shire because traffic disruption was reduced.Things went well for a while – even the councillors felt the need to go out and see it working – and work was done on the basis of a firm annual commitment from the shire to use the contractor.Then came a change of thinking and the shire called for expressions of interest from contractors, with the shire giving no firm commitments. The shire also thought that it would be good for the contractors to have new equipment.As coincidence would have it, the contractor had already placed an order for a new grader, as had another contractor who did regular work for the shire. With the change to expressions of interest, and with no firm commitment about whether their grader would be used or not, both contractors cancelled their orders. The contractor with the sloper blade resolved not to work for the shire again.The end result of the shire looking to change a win-win relationship to one where it held all the aces was that it did not get the new equipment that it wanted, lost the services of proven contractors, and lost the use of a machine that was far more productive than a conventional grader and which reduced the disruption to motorists because of the speed of its work.It is quite possible that the people who came up with the idea (for expressions of interest) may have been well-meaning but misguided people who thought that they had the best interests of the shire at heart by being able to cherry pick from a pool of contracting talent. A few people have told me over the years that the essence of a good deal is that you get what you want, but you leave something in it for the other guy, ie there have to be two winners.That message sometimes gets lost on those who abuse a position of power in a contracting relationship and think they are back in the feudal days of master-servant relationships. In the current climate, a few people can probably get away with it. But if you mainly contain the bleeding in a down market and make the money in an up market, it seems like very short-term thinking to screw the contractor in the current climate just because you can, and become a pariah when the market turns and the contractor can pick and choose who he works for.Who knows, it might even be possible to develop a cooperative relationship with a contractor in the current climate, to foster ways of working smarter to stretch the dollar further. Laziness and desperation are two of the greatest motivators for achieving efficiency. Laziness works in an up market, when you like the money but would rather not have to work as hard to get it. Desperation is more of a motivator now, with the incentive being to survive when you know that some will inevitably fail.

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