Culture Change


Customers on Top: Department of Housing and Urban Development

In Reinventing HUD, [23] the Department of Housing and Urban Development illustrates its plans to revitalize and restructure itself with a series of charts. Along with the usual collection of square and rectangular boxes and straight and dotted lines, the reader can't help but notice the contents of one box at the top of every chart. It reads simply "CUSTOMER(S)."

By itself, that one word captures the sweeping changes that Secretary Henry G. Cisneros is bringing to the much-maligned agency, thesite not only of past scandals but of serious management problems. In the true spirit of From Red Tape to Results, Cisneros has sought to make better customer service HUD's bottom line. All of its reinventing efforts are geared to that goal.

HUD is an agency to which change has not come easily; the problems were perhaps more entrenched there than anywhere else. Look at what the National Academy of Public Administration said recently about the problems HUD faced in the 1980s and early 1990s:

Its resources eroded as society's problems grew, management systems became increasingly outdated, and the number of programs increased and were targeted to more specific purposes. HUD, more than other federal departments, was grossly mismanaged.[24]

To launch his turnaround, Cisneros has used his performance agreement with President Clinton to connect every HUD employee with not just the secretary's goals but the Administration's overall priorities. How? First of all, the agreement reflects the Administration's commitments, as developed by the President's domestic policy staff, to "community, family, economic lift, balanced individual rights and responsibilities, and elimination of artificial barriers that have physically divided Americans by race and income." [25]

To implement these principles, HUD's 13,000 employees adopted the following mission: "To help people create communities of opportunity." Then, to accomplish it, Cisneros signed a performance agreement that lists six goals, which have set the framework for HUD's organizational and other changes:assist homeless persons and families;reduce the number of distressed public housing units;develop affordable housing and make homeownership a reality for more Americans;reduce racial barriers;empower communities; andcreate an environment that supports teamwork and organizational excellence.

To help reorganize the department, a process that began in early 1993, a HUD Reinvention Task Force solicited and received thousandsof suggestions from HUD's employees and outside organizations. Then, in late 1993, the NPR recommended that HUD streamline its regional structure, consolidate its field structure, and gradually cut its workforce by the end of fiscal 1999. In its reorganization, HUD sought to comply with those recommendations.

In April, Cisneros eliminated HUD's 10 regional bureaucracies, which had served only as an unneeded layer of decisionmaking. Cisneros also announced plans to eliminate 1,500 positions. HUD is shifting staff and resources to its 81 field offices and increasing those offices" authority and responsibility to work with states and communities. It designated 52 of the 81 as state offices (to coordinate programs with states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico) and the rest as area offices. HUD also identified 10 "secretary's representatives" to work as the secretary's eyes and ears, and to work with states and interest groups to tailor HUD programs to meet the needs of communities.

Also, after discussions with its managers, union officials, employees, and customers, HUD has begun to reorganize its four main program offices--Housing/FHA, Public and Indian Housing, Community Planning and Development, and Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity:

In the Office of Housing, a team drafted a plan to reorganize field office operations along housing's two major lines of business: single-family and multifamily. In the Office of Public and Indian Housing, HUD gave new line authority to field staff who work directly with public housingresidents. It also sent "change agent teams" into the field to offer training and technical assistance on its reorganization.

Under its reorganization, the Office of Community Planning and Development seeks to create a bottom-up, client-driven organization that helps to empower communities across the nation. The office is eliminating the regional layer of bureaucracy and focusingfield staff more on their customers' needs.

The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is creating Fair Housing Enforcement Centers as well as Program Operations and Compliance Centers. The fair housing centers will accept, refer, and investigate fair housing complaints; the program and compliance centers will ensure that recipients of HUD funds comply with civil rights and equal opportunity laws and policies.

Finally, HUD is creating community empowerment teams in its 81 field offices to work with local and private organizations and citizens, ensuring that HUD's resources are directed where needed. The teams will include representatives of all sectors--residents, developers, state and local governments, foundations, and service providers.

As one HUD employee put it:

We have effectively transformed how we do business, from a department primarily dedicated to pushing paper, accepting applications, and largely uninvolved in addressing major urban problems, to a department which is a facilitator, a catalyst for change, and a positive force in rebuilding and revitalizing our nation's communities. [26]


Return to Table of Contents