Today I noticed this Tweet by @PCA_NECSA pointing to an article about a 100-year study about concrete started in 1910 by Owen Withey. This research took place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a school well-known for its engineering programs. And while there are concrete-related studies going on at universities all over the world, what is interesting to me about this one is the time span over which it was conducted. How many people are willing to start and nurture a project knowing with full certainty they will not be alive when it is finished? And knowing they have to trust others to ensure a successful completion? But what also interests me about this is the parallel I see between this and what people working in public works and governments do every day.
Each of us working in government is tasked with carrying on a multitude of “projects” that support the ultimate project of building and sustaining a community. For most of us, our projects began long before we were born. Outside the U.S., government workers are carrying on from many centuries of prior work. It can be humbling when you stop to think how each of us is just one person in a moment of time of the overall “experiment.” But understanding our roles is also what should provide the motivation and sense of responsibility and dedication to our work. And, like those before us, we must be ready to begin and manage projects that we know we may never see finished. This project at the University of Wisconsin provides not only good information about concrete performance, but also serves as a great example of the importance of working for the public good rather than working just for individual reward.
Here’s a video for those who are interested in learning more about the concrete study: