By Mike McElhany 

“Be curious, learn more, do better. Repeat.” This is the core value that most resonates with me on a personal level, and it has been a fundamental blueprint for me during my 33 years with WAPA.

I have been fortunate enough to have had many opportunities throughout my career to transition into positions for which I was not a subject matter expert. Being curious, learning more, doing better and repeating has been a successful formula for me in these situations.

One year ago, on my first day in the Rocky Mountain region, I told the staff I was going to challenge them. Not that I was going to be difficult, but that I was going to ask why, why, why, why not and why. While we had not yet refreshed WAPA’s core values, I was already exercising my curiosity to learn more and ultimately do better.

Why is this core value so important? I believe that being curious, learning more, doing better and repeating supplements the critical pathways of Strategic Roadmap 2024. Curiosity fuels the Evolution of Services; Mutually Beneficial Partnerships are realized by learning more; and the goal of Business, Technology, and Organizational Excellence is to do better.

The root of this core value is understanding. Curiosity is fundamental to ensure a common understanding. Understanding is fundamental to learning. Understanding what we do, how we do it and why we do it is fundamental to doing better. Innovation is dependent on all three.

WAPA has implemented several initiatives that both directly support and enable this core value. Continuous Process Improvement and Asset Management are pure implementations of this core value. Change Management is ultimately necessary to implement the activities that result from these initiatives, in order to do better. The success of this core value is highly dependent on several things. We have to have the courage to be curious, the perseverance to learn more, the resolve to do better and the commitment to repeat. 

We must be courageous enough to overcome the fear that asking questions is a sign of weakness. Curiosity is an extremely powerful tool that facilitates learning. Learning is a continuous journey, and it requires perseverance to avoid the complacency that we have learned it all. Doing something different is not a measure of success; doing better requires resolve to achieve improvement. Finally, it is easy to rest on our laurels once we have done better. It takes commitment to repeat the process continuously.

That being said, this core value also requires that we create an environment that fosters these tenets in everything we do. We must be receptive to the curiosity of others and not assume that we are being judged. Opportunities for growth and learning must be supported and encouraged with a balanced understanding that the long-term return on investment far exceeds the short-term reduction in productivity.

We also need to set perspectives on doing better; it is not always the item with the greatest effort that achieves the greatest reward.

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Stephen Covey: “Begin with the end in mind.”

If we want to do better, we should begin every day by being curious and learning more.​

Last modified on September 12th, 2023