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
- Restructuring for efficiency...
- Managerial commitment to total quality and all that total quality
- Organizational improvements resulting from a shift in the department's
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...
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
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
- Park districts now report directly to a streamlined headquarters
- Two resource service centers (in Northern and Southern California) were
- These resource centers are staffed by specialists who are better able to
meet district and resource needs by being closer to the issues at hand...
- The number of resource specialists, such as ecologists, were increased to
allow their placement directly in a district operation...
- Restructuring also reduced the potential for park closure, and prevented
the lay-off of field employees who directly served the visitor...
- District superintendents and departmental managers were given broader
authority to manage units while being held accountable for maximizing
revenue. To replace multiple approval levels (for even the most routine
decisions) these managers were delegated to make any and all operational
decisions within the scope of their duties...
- Park employees such as rangers, lifeguards, and maintenance workers (who
were already known for their service) were directed to give renewed emphasis
to customer expectations...
- Administrative support to front-line employees was geared toward meeting
these internal customer's needs.
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
Our three foundation concepts
An interlocking framework of customer
service, continuous improvement and employee empowerment form the foundation
for the new management structure.
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 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
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:
- Memoranda of understanding with and between regulatory agencies to provide
for and facilitate decentralized decision making...
- Increased public partnerships with local governments...
- Increased emphasis on private partnerships (eg. concession operations,
corporate donations and joint projects)...
- Efforts to cultivate monetary support and new sources of income to offset
dwindling tax dollars.
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
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...
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
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in a packet included in a course for fee you should contact Ned Hamson,
editor at the address or numbers above or at ParteoKid@aol.com for
"This is the time, we are the people, let's work together... Now!"
The mission of the California Department of Parks and Recreation...
"...to 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
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
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:
- Was our mission current?
- Could a vision be realistically projected that would result in success for
the organization as well as stewardship of the resources for the future
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:
- Training in TQM tools had not yet taken place, nor had TQM been
- The desire to capitalize on the creative momentum launched by The Seventh
- Budgetary and economic constraints required immediate attention.
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
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
Orientation session content...
The day-long sessions included:
When the orientation training and departmental reorganization were completed,
we began our plans for more detailed
- A discussion on the heritage of the department...
- Reasons for the planned changes and department restructuring...
- Discussions of the concepts of empowerment and customer service...
- Discussions of expectations for the future of the department and its
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...
Thirty six hours of TQM basics such as:
- Systems thinking...
- The foundations of the quality movement and what is quality...
- The meaning, collection and use of data...
- Application of TQM within the department.
Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...
Twenty four hours of TQM team skills (team dynamics and enhancing team
Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...
This module focused on 28 hours on TQM tools and their application to:
- Problem solving...
- Error identification...
- Cycle time efficiency.
Practice the acquired knowledge, skills and behaviors...
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
- Deming, W. Edwards. 1986. Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MA: 507p.
- Nanus, Bert. 1991. Visionary Leadership. Los Angeles, CA: 398p.
- Verardo, Jennie. 1993. Total Quality Management and its Potential as a
Management Program in the Public Sector. Unpublished paper in partial
fulfillment of the Master in Public Administration Degree at Golden Gate
University. Monterey, CA: 36p.
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.