California's Park Service is planning for the future American community...

To the seventh generation

By Denzil Verardo - California Department of Parks and Recreation

California's State Park System represents the most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any land managing agency in California. This status did not, however, insulate it from changing tax structures or statewide economic fluctuations.

The economic downturn in the state's economy in the 1990s challenged California's Department of Parks and Recreation to cope with needed expansion and maintenance of a system that a still burgeoning population demanded and ensure that those resources would be available for future generations - unborn customers of a system in whose name the park service held its resources in trust.

Establishing a charter for change - To the department's director, Donald Murphy, the answer to these challenges lay in a proactive approach that would include:

The alternatives to this course, according to Murphy (the first field superintendent ever appointed as director), would have included park closures, or budget reductions which would have made it virtually impossible for the Department to meet its stated mission.

Using a team approach to arise anew from potential disaster...

Director Murphy appointed a cross-functional team, the Phoenix Committee (after the mythical bird that rose from its own ashes) to look at the department's organizational structure. His charge to the Phoenix Committee was actually quite simple: simplify the reporting relationships within the department and make recommendations for change. Murphy also made clear his intention to implement any recommended changes that would better enable the department to carry out its responsibilities - a true charter for reinventing the Department of Parks and Recreation. Phoenix Committee members agreed they would use quality team practices to carry out its mission.

Our baseline: the way things were

Bureaucratic decision making...

Through the years, the department had been organized as a centralized and bureaucratic hierarchy (something very common in civil service operations). In addition to not being efficient, its many layers of reporting relationships were also very expensive to maintain. As a result of this bureaucratic history, state parks were organized into 55 districts which reported to 5 regions. These regions in turn reported to a Sacramento headquarters chain-of-command organized in a traditional police/military fashion.

Equity budgeting...

When budget reductions occur in government, they traditionally occur across the board regardless of any efficiencies one agency may have introduced over another.

But we're already doing quality! Prior to the implementation of TQM, a number of people within the department would say "we are already doing a lot of TQM." While this is true, such TQM elements as: a focus on the customer, data collection for problem solving, continuous process improvement, strategically oriented team problem solving, systems thinking and employee empowerment were not unified in an overall TQM or departmental strategy.

The Phoenix Committee's first fruits

Park districts were consolidated from 55 to 23, and the 5 regions were eliminated completely as a result of the Phoenix Committee's recommendations. Other recommendations of the committee which were implemented include the following:

Ten million results...

Implementation of the Phoenix Committee's recommendations for consolidation, decentralization, flattening and renewed customer focus when combined with the efforts of employees at every level has saved the Department of Parks and Recreation 10 million dollars annually and set the stage for effectively integrating quality management into the culture of the organization.

Creating a TQM culture for current and future customers

While the restructuring efforts were being planned and implemented, the department began orienting all employees to total quality management concepts and then training all employees in the use of TQM techniques and tools. Getting TQM beyond the jargon stage and into the fabric of our management systems - institutionalized in our culture - has by no means been easy, and is certainly, at the time publication of this article, not complete. However, TQM initiatives pervade virtually every aspect of operations within the department, as the following discussion of individual TQM components illustrate.

Our three foundation concepts

An interlocking framework of customer service, continuous improvement and employee empowerment form the foundation for the new management structure.

Customer service...

In the California Park Service, visitors now give feedback formally through specially developed, measurable instruments. Much care was taken to avoid creating satisfaction surveys which could not be statistically correlated to the importance of the service to our customer/visitor - measurable results to drive decisions and actions. At the same time, we value and measure employee (internal customer) satisfaction with similar results-oriented surveys.

Additional 'customers' to be served and satisfied...

The needs and demands of the state legislature, regulations imposed by other state agencies, and the essential public-ness of government are examples of additional customers and forces which must be included as we make customer driven quality decisions. Unless carefully and skillfully managed, these other customers and forces can complicate and on occasion halt the creative interaction that supports change in general, and TQM specifically.

Continuous improvement...

Continuous process improvement as a fundamental requirement of TQM, is now taught in the California Park Service Park Quality Management Training Program on a regular basis. Customer feedback, sorting and eliminating the causes of problems and inefficiency, monitoring the progress of improvement, are but a few of the items that the department collects data for controlling variance and making and standardizing improvements.

Empowerment and the team approach...

Of all governmental entities, resource agencies like our department are especially good candidates for widespread use of TQM-based team problem solving. Like other organizations which have a wide variety of specialists and generalists, the Department of Parks and Recreation's resource specialists, rangers, and managers may all have a piece of the solution to a specific problem. By carefully selecting a team of such individuals, solutions are now developed with a degree of accuracy and thoroughness not possible prior to implementing TQM.

Partnering with other stakeholders...

A variant of the team approach that we now use is termed partnering. Examples of partnering which have been explored (and have led to some innovative projects include:

Balancing equity, efficiency and focusing on the customer

In addition to becoming more efficient and focusing on the customer, the department had to consider equity to current and future customers. Deming agreed, in a personal conversation (San Jose, California, 1993) that equity is more important than efficiency. Equal, or equitable access to parks for all people, and protection of irreplaceable resources for future generations, regardless of current public pressures, are issues of equity inherent in our mission - they are not violable by the concept of efficiency. Unfortunately, issues of equity were often used as an excuse not to be efficient thereby weakening the ability of the department to modernize its management processes.

Investing in training

Early on in the implementation process it was agreed that investing in employee TQM training, at every level of the organization, would provide long term dividends.

Our training goal...

The goal was to implement TQM beyond the jargon stage and to actually utilize the tools, data collection methods, and service concepts intrinsic to quality management. Included in this goal was to successfully adapt TQM to the California Park Service, not to adopt a particular structured approach to the department.

Developing the curricula...

In-house expertise was utilized to develop the curricula. We decided that the management program would consist of four just in time training modules (a module would be taught, then practiced in the field prior to teaching the next module).

Assessment of the training, ensuing implementation and future plans

The Park Quality Management (PQM) training program which began in the Fall of 1993, exceeded the department's expectations. Implementation of the processes, techniques and skills learned through training has begun at every level of the organization. Rank and file training which runs throughout the year will be conducted by department trainers at their respective work units. Facilitators will also work with problem solving teams to ensure appropriate application and use of TQM tools and techniques. The next training cycle (Fall, 1994) will also include: PQM for supervisors, annual planning for managers, and a refresher for trainers.

TQM has been integrated into technical and skill training...

Skills training normally conducted at the departmental training center now includes TQM components. While training alone does not ensure TQM success, without it there would have been no hope of achieving our goals of reinventing the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

This article was originally published in the Journal for Quality and Participation and is copywritten by the Association for Quality and Participation, 801-B W. 8th St., Suite 501, Cincinnati, Ohio 45203, Tel: 513-381-1959, Fax 513-381-0070: all rights reserved. You may download and print it for your own personal use. If you wish to share it with others by photocopying, e-mail or by placing it on another online service; reprint it in a newsletter, or reprint all or a portion of it in a book for resale, or in a packet included in a course for fee you should contact Ned Hamson, editor at the address or numbers above or at for permission.

"This is the time, we are the people, let's work together... Now!"


The mission of the California Department of Parks and Recreation... " provide for the health, inspiration, and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state's extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation."

The Seventh Generation: the strategic vision of the California Department of Parks and Recreation...

Establishing a vision for change

The logical starting point to drive TQM into any organization is to create a vision based on a realistic projection of that organization's desired future. Such visioning helps an organization to focus on improvements and quality efforts geared toward achievable results. W. Edwards Deming himself stressed the requirement that vision be developed to focus an entire organization on improvement.

The vision's scope and context...

The vision's scope set boundaries by defining the must be achievable, and the vision context attempted to identify important future developments which could affect the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Our vision evaluation process...

Director Murphy set out to test the mission and goals of the department through a thorough vision audit which included an evaluation, the scope, and the context of the future state of the Department of Parks and Recreation. This vision evaluation charted the movement of the department toward the proposed vision by evaluating and checking the vision against a template of questions. The root questions were:

The vision audit and the data collected during it led to a series of meetings, including a two-day off-site visioning session, of the full executive staff (all division chiefs and director's staff members).

During this process participants wrestled with the seeming contradiction of being responsible for preserving the state's natural resources and satisfying the public's need for recreational facilities and opportunities. Strategies of how to deal with uncertain economic support while at the same time being the steward for the state's natural resources was also considered.

The Seventh Generation concept and document

The Seventh Generation is the strategic vision of the Department of Parks and Recreation. It embodies the heritage, mission, values, goals, and vision of the department. All employees were sent a copy of the publication and a Seventh Generation brochure was prepared for public distribution.

Seventh Generation strategic planning...

The goals identified in The Seventh Generation served as the foundation for our ensuing strategic planning. Those strategies were then translated into tactics and operational terms.

This first strategic plan was out of necessity a top-down plan (although it did take field input into account) because:

While supplying a blueprint for department operations, strategic plans are just that, strategies for the future. As the needs of the organization change, and as TQM becomes more integrated within the operation of the Department of Parks and Recreation, the strategic plan, or portions of it, will change annually to meet progress toward the vision expressed in The Seventh Generation.

For example, our next strategic plan will be one in which the data and goals of field operations, as well as data and goals from the department's senior management will be integrated into our visioning and strategic planning process. The second plan will also benefit from widespread use and knowledge of TQM and its techniques.

Empowerment and just in time training...

Empowerment orientation training

During the last two months of 1992, empowerment orientation sessions were held at the department's training facility at the department's Asilomar Conference Grounds for district superintendents, managers, and trainers.

The trainers (two from each district and headquarters unit in the department) then conducted orientation sessions for every employee within their respective units.

Orientation session content...

The day-long sessions included:

When the orientation training and departmental reorganization were completed, we began our plans for more detailed TQM training.

Management just in time training

We decided that the management program would consist of four just in time training modules (a module would be taught, then practiced in the field prior to teaching the next module). To quickly build capacity and encourage cross-functional training in team and tool problem solving, trainers (facilitators) from each district and headquarters unit attended the second and third modules with their respective manager. First level supervisors received week-long training consisting of basics and tools components of our quality management training.

Managers' just in time training modules...

Module one:

Thirty six hours of TQM basics such as:

Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...

Module two:

Twenty four hours of TQM team skills (team dynamics and enhancing team effectiveness).

Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...

Module three:

This module focused on 28 hours on TQM tools and their application to:

Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...

Module four:

The fourth Park Quality Management Program involved of 28 hours of training on strategic planning.

Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...

About the author:

Denzil Verardo, Ph.D., is the deputy director for administration of the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Notes and references

Author's note:

Following a carefully planned assessment of our training needs, the consultant selected by the department to conduct total quality management training was Ron Black, principal of Meta Dynamics, a consulting and training firm headquartered in the Sacramento, California area.