Transforming Transit: Excellence in Strategy Execution

Posted on March 15, 2019

Blog 4 COS

This guest blog is by ELGL member Bob Epner, the CEO of

MTA’s New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) President, Andy Byford, is inspiring hope and trust in both the public and among his employees by leading the transit authority with accountability, transparency, and direct, honest multi-directional communication.

Byford’s use of these principles in his leadership is an opportunity to discuss an
extremely new and powerful type of tool — Strategy Execution Management
software — that is tailor-made to help principled and effective government leaders
like him get the job done.


Let’s start with accountability. Byford’s philosophy of leadership is based on a
customer-centric continuous improvement model.

Above all, Byford sees the MTA as accountable to its clients: the riders. Byford identifies himself to his “clients” as the person who is accountable for the NYCTA’s performance. At the same time, he holds others accountable in a healthy way.

The transit authority has been a political football between the city and state, with neither eager to claim responsibility for its upkeep. In his strategic plan, “Fast Forward: The Plan to Modernize New York Transit,” Byford has clearly outlined specific elements he wants to put in place.

These include “six hundred and fifty new subway cars within five years, three thousand more in the next five; a new fare-payment system by 2020; more than fifty new stations made wheelchair-accessible; redesigned bus networks in all five boroughs.”

Source: William Finnegan, “Can Andy Byford Fix the Subways?” The New Yorker, July 9 and 16 issue, 2018

In effect, by articulating his strategic plan, he is asking the city and state to be accountable for their role in supporting the system.

Byford also establishes accountability for his employees. New management
positions are responsible for making sure the stations are clean and functional. New signage with photos introduces New Yorkers to each subway station’s staff leader, and encourages riders to contact them if needed.

New group managers oversee groups of these subway stations and station managers. Taking care of the stations communicates that Byford and his team are caring for and taking responsibility for the whole system running well.

Prioritizing a client-centered culture also motivates NYCTA staff.

“This is a new approach” says Sandy Castillo, one of the new managers overseeing a group of stations. “It’s very different than what’s in the past, in terms of putting the customer first. There’s a feeling now, that now’s a chance to really make a difference. There’s a lot of energy.”

Source: “New MTA Station Managers are Sweating the Details, But Will it Matter?”

The above points are, of course, also examples of transparency. Transparency is
necessary for accountability to work. If someone is accountable for an initiative or
goal, but no one knows it, that’s not helpful. Thus, a big part of transparency is …


Transparency and accountability need to be communicated to effect change and
create a culture shift. A culture of accountability and transparency creates
results. Byford has established two-way communication in multiple directions:

  • Vertically, to and from government leaders, the public “client,” and MTA directors,
    managers and front line workers
  • Horizontally, to and from other agencies and divisions within the MTA

Some examples:

Recently a subway station was closed due to an electrical outage from ConEd. Byford immediately went to the station and explained to the press gathering there
how his team had rapidly and effectively responded, what had been required to
resolve the issue, and praised the staff for its excellent work.

His outreach resulted in a greater public understanding of the difficulty and complexity that was involved in solving the issue, and rewarded and reinforced the MTA staff.

Byford has also initiated new subway announcements that provide more detail to
riders regarding what is causing delays. Increasing the accuracy and honesty of
public communications is likely to result in riders feeling more trust toward the
MTA. It has for me.

Byford is equally investing his own time and his staff’s time in listening to and
responding to communication from the public and from staff at multiple levels of the organization.

As one of his first steps upon assuming the the NYCTA presidency, Byford “vowed to visit every subway station – there are 472 – and ride every bus,” as a combination “reconnaissance mission and goodwill tour… He shook hands and told
people ‘We’re one team.’”

Source: William Finnegan, “Can Andy Byford Fix the Subways?” The New Yorker, July 9 and 16 issue, 2018

Strategy Execution Management

A new class of technology, Strategy Execution Management software, can amplify
the transparency, accountability and communication established by the enlightened leadership of executives like Byford.

Such a tool can be used to extend the principles of accountability, transparency, and communication Byford models through his direct actions to infuse the execution of every strategic initiative in the organization.

Strategy execution management software provides a real-time, crowd-sourced, diagnostic view of an organization’s entire plan direct from their accountable front-line managers.

Every strategic initiative has an accountable owner. Every person in the organization can see how their efforts contribute to the priorities and goals of the organization. Leaders are not blindsided—they understand and can react to obstacles and opportunities swiftly. Managers and teams on the frontlines are seen and heard.

All of this inspires and strengthens a culture of accountability begun through the philosophy and actions of an organization’s leaders.

A culture of accountability, transparency and communication builds trust, which is
needed to garner the significant resources needed to effect major changes.

Even as the problems at the NYCTA are prominently featured in the media—with
stories and photos of unidentifiable ooze emerging from grates, trains stuck
between stations, or trained pizza rat conspiracy theories—Byford and his team are promoting a new narrative based on actions and results.

Strategy execution management is made for leaders like Byford, who are serious about creating a culture of accountability and excellence. This not only benefits senior leaders, it benefits everyone in the organization as well as the public they serve.

Bob Epner is founder and CEO of is the leader in the new category of Strategy Execution Management software, which helps CEOs and C-Suites manage the resources, activities and processes required to successfully achieve an organization’s plan objectives. With, senior leaders in complex organizations can see their whole plan in one place, maintaining a clear line of sight across the plan, the people, and the initiatives that are necessary to deliver the plan.

Epner has over 20 years of related senior management experience, having held multiple leadership positions at ING Global including Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff for ING Investment Management. From 2002 to 2008 he was based at ING’s Asia/Pacific headquarters in Hong Kong, where he held the positions of Chief of Staff and Regional Chief Operating Officer overseeing 24 businesses across twelve countries with over 10,000 employees.

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