Getting Started and Encouraging Participation
The employees of the Department of the Interior (DOI) received Vice President Gore's announcement of the National Performance Review (NPR) with enthusiasm. The NPR reinforced President Clinton's mandate to revitalize and restore DOI to an efficient and effective natural resources management agency.
DOI developed three goals for the reinvention process of changing the practices and culture of the agency:
--to join the Vice President in the process of developing recommendations for NPR;
--to reach out to all department employees for their assistance in identifying, reviewing and implementing opportunities for improvement; and
--to use NPR as a tool to incorporate the most successful elements of past efforts to improve and integrate the delivery of DOI services.
Secretary Bruce Babbitt challenged Interior's many bureaus to reconsider their missions. Many of these agencies have grown over time without clearly defined goals and objectives. To meet the Secretary's challenge, employees were asked to rethink their daily operations, redefine their roles, and provide input on how to redesign their programs to meet new customer demands. As a central aspect of refocusing missions, DOI is emphasizing increased use of scientific tools to make resource management decisions. Scientific information has too often been ignored, misapplied, or even worse, absent in the decision-making process. Researchers within DOI bureaus are also making their scientific work more accessible to lay persons.
Throughout the reinvention process, the DOI reinvention team has focused on suggestions that would benefit the department without the need for increased appropriations or additional staff.
Organizing for Change
Based on the direction set by Vice President Gore and Secretary Babbitt, DOI has organized its reinvention efforts to build interagency cooperation and to encourage participation by rank and file employees.
DOI's effort to include input from its employees officially began with Vice President Gore's visit to the Main Interior Building for a Town Hall meeting. That event, which produced a number of concrete suggestions for change, was soon followed by a second town hall meeting at the regional center in Denver. In addition to these two high-profile events, employee input is being solicited through suggestion drop boxes, e-mail messages, mailings, and employee interviews. Secretary Babbitt made a commitment to respond to each and every suggestion received. Employees have responded by generating hundreds of suggestions to assist the department in pursuing its reinvention effort.
To manage the reinvention process within the department, DOI has established a Coordinator's Group made up of representatives from each of its bureaus and the offices of the Assistant Secretaries. The Coordinator's Group serves as the department's steering committee for reinvention programs and activities. Members of the Coordinator's Group have been assigned to each of the department's systems teams and reinvention labs.
DOI formed 11 System Reinvention Teams (SRTs) modeled on the organizational structure of the Vice President's task force. These teams will seek to improve horizontal communication and working relationships among the bureaus as they develop reinvention strategies. The membership of these teams reflects a wide range of backgrounds and grade levels--each team is composed of six or seven members from different agencies.
The SRTs were charged with reviewing the hundreds of reinvention suggestions generated by DOI's employees through the department's outreach efforts. After these comments were evaluated and prioritized, more than 100 suggestions emerged from the process. Delegates from each team met to report their findings and to develop a consensus on action priorities. The list of suggestions was then narrowed, by combining similar recommendations from different sectors. From that list, Interior's policy team selected 20 recommendations for immediate attention. Implementation plans for these action items are being created by the SRTs.
DOI is sponsoring seven different reinvention laboratories at both the department and bureau levels. These reinvention labs build on past efforts while experimenting with novel management systems, new technology, and fresh ideas.
At the departmental level, the Office of Environmental Affairs is examining the natural resource damage assessment process used in determining fines that are paid after accidents such as the Exxon Valdez grounding.
At the bureau level, both programmatic and fiscal management issues are the subject of reinvention laboratories. Programmatic issues include the following:
--The Bureau of Land Management is working to improve the quality and timeliness of the services delivered to field offices from its Denver regional office.
--The Bureau of Mines is reviewing the activities of its Pittsburgh Research Center, the government's premier center for coal mine health and safety work.
--The Sacramento Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is developing approaches to meet its multiple environmental protection responsibilities, especially those in California's heavily used Central Valley watershed.
The following fiscal issues are being investigated:
--The Minerals Management Service is simplifying and streamlining its royalty collection and reporting system, which generates federal revenues from the sale of the nation's oil and gas resources.
--The U.S. Geological Survey, which publishes 1,500 maps annually and sells more than 7 million maps each year to both map dealers and the general public, is reviewing the efficiency of its map sales operations and distribution center.
--The Bureau of Reclamation, which develops and manages irrigation projects in western states, is working in concert with the Department of Agriculture to review the appropriateness of the reporting requirements for farmers who receive commodity stabilization price supports and for farmers who participate in subsidized water projects.
The findings from the reinvention laboratories will be presented to the department's policy leaders and the bureau management teams.
Continuing the Process
New ideas for promising reinvention labs continue to surface. DOI management is eager to participate in national initiatives, such as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure, which will demonstrate the benefits of changing the way government does business.
Perhaps the most important and immediate effect of the NPR process has been the building of bridges among DOI's bureaus. The systems teams opened up new lines of communication which were developed through this process. Dozens of suggestions that have been considered by Interior's policy team have been sent back to the SRTs for additional research, issue definition, and planning--all with the ultimate goal of implementation.
Opening the doors to participatory management has had a positive effect on employee engagement. Team members from the SRTs continue to receive and solicit ideas from their fellow employees. Interior's Reinventing Personnel Management team, for example, will be holding a series of focus groups to identify both concerns and solutions.
Through these teams and the Reinvention Labs, the structure is in place for a continuing process of reinventing the department and fulfilling the department's mission.
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