Editor's Notebook: What’s driving your organization?

April 19, 2022
An organization’s values need to exist on more than just paper; they need to be understood and embraced by all members of a team to leverage their full potential.

While planning, writing and putting together this issue, the topic of corporate values emerged as an unofficial theme with our features on CapMetro and HIRTA.

This issue’s cover story on CapMetro in Austin, Texas, shines a direct spotlight on the agency’s five values – equity, transparency, safety, sustainability and innovation – and the resources its team puts into those values. The result has been a turnaround in corporate culture, as well as a positive shift in the agency’s favorability rating within the Austin region.

HIRTA shares two of the same values with its focus on equity and innovation. Perhaps not the expected values for a system in Iowa, but as readers of the article will find, it’s what HIRTA expects from itself and what its customers need from the organization.

An entity’s values serve as cultural cornerstones and direct an organization’s purpose. One indicator I use of a topic’s importance is how much has been written on the subject. Amazon currently has more than 2,000 books covering organizational values, how to develop them, why they are important and advice on ways to go about weaving these values into various teams.

Having a set of corporate values is one side of the equation; making sure those values are communicated, understood and embraced throughout the organization is the other side. What CapMetro has developed throughout its organization is a sense of ownership and empowerment among employees to ensure its values sit at the core of everything it does.

CEO Randy Clarke noted at several points during the magazine’s interview with him that the agency’s staff are the most important part of the organization. He wants CapMetro to offer careers rather than jobs and that means offering good training, paying a livable wage and expressing gratitude for staff efforts throughout the organization.

Early morning team breakfasts occur regularly for frontline staff and the management team frequently rides CapMetro’s network equipped with gift cards and a note of thanks to hand out to operators and other team members who provide good service.

Clarke believes the best management structures are matrix style, which encourages questions to be asked. He promotes a practice within management teams he calls collaborative tension, which is designed to push colleagues and try to find potential deficiencies in plans (in a respectful and collegial way) to better the organization overall.

Clarke thinks these efforts have stoked a sense of passion among CapMetro staff, which helps the organization deliver service because the obligation to perform has been removed and replaced by the passion to perform.

HIRTA Executive Director Julia Castillo promotes the same type of commitment and care in her agency’s staff. She explains their drive is to “give people the freedom to move around their own communities.”

We enjoyed learning about these two organizations and hope their efforts inspire their industry peers.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.