Thursday, December 18, 2008

Consultants and FSA Reorganization

I missed this when it was initially put up. But I'll comment now on a couple things:

USDA-FSA Organizational Assessment, Findings and Recommendations, Executive Summary:
"Each division has a Director, Deputy Director, Assistant to the Director and one (1)
to two (2) Branch Chiefs, representing a total of nine (9) managers to supervise 20 employees (authorized FTE ceiling). "(page 16)
Currently, all three HQ divisions of DAFP (CEPD, PECD, and PSD) have their own automation unit structured to provide user requirements and interface with IT programmers in Kansas City ITSD. Each division, in essence, recreates a workflow process for new programs based only on the work done within the division without the benefit of drawing from previously designed programs that have been developed elsewhere in DAFP. This lack of integration and synergy has led to redundancies and inefficiencies in program development, as well as created imbalances in workload among the automation units within the various divisions and complications for the
Kansas City ITSD staff. " (page 26)

"almost all employees responded that they saw little connection between their work and the agency Strategic Plan. Many managers expressed frustration that they could not see the direction in which FSA is headed either as an agency or in their own program beyond the mission of “making sure that farmers and ranchers received payments on time.”

"We are confident that FSA top leadership understands the importance of such workforce communication and is taking the necessary steps to ensure that a communication plan and process is in place to educate employees regarding the
Assessment process and outcomes" (page 63)
Things I found interesting:
  • there's almost no reference to the organizational environment (except for USDA IT). The study assumes the existing relationships between FSA, its sister agencies, and the department. That's an assumption Secretaries Madigan, Espy, and Glickman would not have permitted during my time.
  • there's no serious discussion of past attempts to reorganize, either within FSA or in USDA. As a failed historian, I believe those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
  • it's disappointing but not surprising that USDA at the department level ranks 215 out of 222 in terms of morale. I suspect it reflects the relative unimportance of the department vis a vis the agencies.
  • there's almost no reference to the political environment. As FSA is a political agency that makes the assessment unrealistic. (This may have been in the charge to the consultants who did the report.) For example, I'd interpret the recommendations as something state executive directors would resist. Because most SED's are politically connected, that means many influential members of Congress would resist.
  • I'm bothered by what seems to be a continuing split between the IT operations supporting the Farm Loan programs (old FmHA) and the FArm Program side (old ASCS). I'd make the common provisions division serve all FSA (and NRCS)
  • the lack of perceived connection between day to day work and the Strategic Plan I see as confirmation of my disrespect of Strategic Plans.
  • the first quote confirms my disrespect of Al Gore's Reinventing Government initiative to reduce the number of managers.
  • the last quote shows, perhaps, a naive faith in FSA management.


Anonymous said...

Is NRCS our sister agency or is RMA, since RMA and FSA fall under the same Under Secretary but NRCS falls under another?

Anonymous said...

Instead of having a Deputy Administator for Field Operations and a Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs why not merge the two again and have something similar to DASCO? That way the States cannot tell WDC they won't follow some procedure because the Deputy is not their boss.

Bill Harshaw said...

Anon1: So I guess NRCS is a "cousin agency"? Fine by me.

Anon2: Rule no.2 of the bureaucracy, any reorganization creates more, not fewer, high paid positions. :-)