HRDV Program Assessment Tool – A Case Study

| September 10, 2016

HRDV Program Assessment Tool – A Case Study

HRDV 6000 Integrative Studies in Human Resources Development

Gulfport Transit

Gulfport Transit is the main public transportation authority in the Tampa, Florida Metroplex. It operates buses within Tampa, Sarasota, Clearwater, and Bradenton, Florida, and provides regular service to Sarasota Bradenton International Airport, St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport, and Tampa International Airport. The Tampa Bay area is one of the fastest-growing urban areas on Florida’s Gulf Coast. As of December, 2008, Gulfport Transit currently operates 50 routes across the Metroplex. These routes, covering a service area of 2,100 square miles serve most communities within the area (with the exception of certain distant communities in adjacent Pasco County, Zephyrhills and Dade City). The vast majority of routes operate from 5:00 A.M. until 12:00 midnight, with reduced schedules on weekends and holidays. In addition to local service, Gulfport Transit also operates 25 commuter routes in conjunction with its strategic partner, Palmetto Transit. These routes operate in a peak-flow capacity, taking passengers from outlying communities to Tampa, Sarasota, Clearwater, and the Universities of Tampa and Sarasota (and back). Together, the two universities have a total of 7,500 commuting students. Most commuter buses serve one of the 20 park and ride lots in Pasco and Hillsborough counties and make limited stops in the communities they originate from. Gulfport Transit also provides vanpool service. These allow for more flexibility than traditional fixed-bus routes. The riders – who also take turns driving the vans – decide their own routing, which allows non-traditional commuters, who may not have access to fixed routes, the benefits of transit services. With 200 vans, the fleet is the 15th largest in the United States. Gulfport provides paratransit services for those who live within ¾’s mile of a local fixed-bus route. This service, called HART or Harness-A-Ride Transportation, provides those with conditions who prevent them from using regular buses or vans the flexibility and convenience of door-to-door service.

History and Background

Gulfport Transit opened its doors on April 14, 1990. The original member was the City of Sarasota. Over the next 10 years, the population of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area grew by 15% a year. The area lacked a sound transit infrastructure which could absorb the increased demand for services, and Sarasota and its newly created transit system found an opportunity for expansion and growth. By the fall of 2003, the agency had expanded into the cities of Tampa, Clearwater, and Bradenton. Employee growth ballooned from the original 275 employees in Sarasota to over 2,100 in the whole Tampa Bay Area. Only 1,100 of these were transit operators. The remaining 1,000 employees consisted of design and maintenance engineers and other support staff. Over 100 of the support employees were government liaisons and lobbyists who assisted the executive team in fundraising activities at the federal, state, and local levels. The executive team was made-up of a charismatic, new Hispanic female CEO, a Princeton- educated, black VP of Maintenance and Operations, an older white male VP of Marketing (Ph.D. from Mississippi State), a cynical white male VP of Engineering, and a brilliant VP of Human Resources who saw herself on a fast track to becoming the next CEO of the Regional Transit Authority (the umbrella organization which regulated all transportation planning and operations in the metroplex).

Juanita Barges, the new CEO, was in her mid 40’s and had an MBA from the University of Florida at Gainesville. She had been Associate CEO at the Jacksonville Florida Transit Authority (Alligator Alley Metro). She was a bold, no-nonsense leader. As Bill Collins, her VP of Marketing at Jacksonville, said, “Juanita is a tough cookie. If you work with her, she’ll do anything for you. If you work against her, she takes no prisoners!” While at Jacksonville, she fought hard to transform an old-style good ole boy’s network into an agency with “heart”. Her executive counterparts in Jacksonville admired her competence and her strong sense of ethics and values, but that did not keep them from resisting every new initiative she and her liberal boss, Jim Taylor, introduced. At Jacksonville, Juanita was the champion of change and reform, surrounded by antagonists of every shape, color, and creed. She had the kind of street smarts that came from growing-up poor in a gang-infested part of Dallas. She had worked her way through the University of Texas at San Antonio, attended night school, and supported two children with a full-time supervisor’s job at the local bus company. With a few strong allies from Tallahassee, she was able to attract federal funding that allowed Jacksonville to expand into van pool services, and eventually, light rail. She understood the politics of transportation and could set goals, build alliances and marshal resources better than any of her male counterparts. In short, she was a threat to every self-respecting male executive at both Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Her “business savvy” was only part of their concern. Juanita had made the mistake of caring about people. She recognized that many transit employees had not grown-up with middle class advantages. Many operators, with some college, had never completed their degrees. They were a diverse group by gender, age, race, and ethnicity, and most had blue collar backgrounds. About 60% were women. The operator job paid well; in many cases, the female operators were the primary breadwinners in their households.

The new, young black VP of Operations and Maintenance, Ed Lincoln, (“Link” for short)

had been promoted by Juanita from Operations’ supervision. Link was 35, college educated, and a quick learner. He had demonstrated that he was not afraid to confront poor performers. His biggest challenge was the lack of executive experience. He was known and well-thought of across the organization. His position had been created to integrate the Operations and Maintenance Departments and overcome the intergroup conflict that had solidified over the years under the old management regime. The climate could best be described as an “icy hostility”. Mrs. Barges thought that Link had the combination of managerial competence and interpersonal s skills to begin thawing that ice.

The Director of Operations, Steve Douglas, was a 52 year old white male with over 25 years of experience in with transit and unionized operations. Steve had been Director for 12 years. Ivy-league trained, Steve had a brilliant analytical mind coupled with a facilitative style of management. His weakness was a pronounced tendency to accommodate the needs of operators without considering the costs. This tended to frustrate the supervisor who often felt like their direct reports went over their heads to Steve to get what they wanted. Juanita recognized the problem but was not yet ready to consider at a “career derailleur”. She suspected Steve had never been trained or coached before and wanted to give him the chance to be further developed as a leader. He knew Operations well, had managerial acumen, and seemed capable of learning. The previous Director had been fired for incompetence shortly after Juanita had come on board.

The second largest department, Maintenance, was a group of 50 mostly white male-skilled tradesmen. Their Director, Mike Drew, had come-up through the ranks and was well-liked. The maintenance workers did high-quality work. The biggest problems as a department were that they lacked formal standards and procedures as well as a sense of urgency. In some ways, they were too autonomous (although they liked it that way). Mike buffered them from excessive “outside demands.

Finally, Lewis (“Lew”) Steinberg, age 45, was VP of Engineering. Lew had grown-up in NYC and held a Bachelors degree from Drexel Institute of Technology. He had spent his whole career in transit. Forty-five well-educated technologists and engineers worked for him. Lew’s department interfaced extensively with Operations and Maintenance. They were responsible for making sure that the route structure, technical, and technological demands of the organization were met. Lew worked extensively with his executive team counterparts in Operations and Maintenance. Both departments were unionized. The Operation’s Department was affiliated with the Amalgamated Transportation Workers (ATW). The Maintenance Department had 2 unions: A supervisor’s union, the Association of Maintenance Administrators (AMA); and a mechanics union, the Brotherhood of Transit Mechanics (BTM). The Engineering Department was unaffiliated. Lew and his people often felt like second class citizens in an organization where both the Board of Directors and the CEO were pro-union. Lew wondered why the people with the most education seemed to get the least attention.

The CEO was proud of her new executive team. She had been brought in from Jacksonville to “turnaround” a weak, non-producing organization that lacked leadership at all levels. The previous executive team was made of mostly passive individuals who collectively reinforced an organizational culture characterized by rules and compliance. Part of this was necessary and came with the necessary focus on safety in the transportation industry. Most of it could be attribute to failure of vision and nerve at the top. The former executives often introduced Organizational Development fads, like TQM, that proved to be short-lived. All kinds of committees and task forces were created to preserve the illusion of “employee empowerment”, but little had changed over the last 10 years. Through all the “change initiatives” no leadership training, team building, or career development had ever taken place and no real HRD diagnostic work had occurred at an organizational level. The Board of Directors had been trying to dislodge the previous group of good ole’ boys for some time. They finally fired the CEO and brought-in Juanita with a mandate for change. Juanita worked closely with the Board and the agency’s lawyers, and it was not long before the old crowd was gone.

As an executive with business and organizational savvy, Juanita was able to do her own informal assessment of the situation. She spent the first few months of her new job walking around, observing, and chatting with people about the agency, their customers, and their work. Among other things, she noticed that:

(1) Many transit operators had narrowly-defined jobs and little decision power. Most were bright, and about half had college educations. Their jobs were interesting, but isolating and somewhat routine. They drove the vehicles within the bounds of the law, following strict schedules developed and monitored by the engineering department. To Juanita, they were a tough breed who didn’t seem to want to work with colleagues to solve common problems. They disliked having anyone over them. “Just let me do my job” was their standard mantra. While Juanita sympathized, she didn’t see it their way.

(2) Growth in the Tampa Bay area was creating increased interdependency between engineering, security, maintenance and management. The requirements from all stakeholders had gone-up and changed regularly as new municipalities came into the system. Turbulent change called for flexible adaptation from the agency – that meant people working together to resolve complex issues. In Juanita’s mind, a bunch of departmental rogue elephants wouldn’t do!

(3) The front-line supervisors were more like overseers. They often seemed to

placate the people reporting to them. With about 25 operators reporting to each lead supervisor, the supervisors felt like they were ill-equipped to do the job. They had never received any formal training or guidance from middle management. They had no way to reward outstanding performance or control breaches of conduct because “HR handled all that”. As one person put it, “Everyone knows HR is a “black hole” of one way communication! You just grit your teeth and do your job; you know you are alone without any back-up. Another had said, “I don’t feel like an operator or a manager. I wouldn’t know what a real manager feels like because I’ve never had the tools or organizational support to become one.”

(4) Vehicle Maintenance, like Operations, was unionized. The maintenance people were experienced mechanics who had been with the agency for a long time. Juanita had heard that the previous CEO, Ed Dugan, ignored the Department and its personnel. When a conflict broke-out between Maintenance and Operations (maintenance schedules had begun to break down because of too much work and too few mechanics) the CEO blamed Maintenance for “failing to meet demand.” In reality, the financial coffers were full. The agency could have easily hired more mechanics and kept-up with the high levels of demand. Instead, in a misguided attempt to impress Board President, Steve Jones (a local developer), Ed justified his refusal to bring on new mechanics as a justifiable cost savings. “Too much slack in the system already”, he said. The mechanics and their managers continued to feel they had to “do more with less”.

(5) The performance appraisal system was bureaucratic and weighted-down.

Few executives, managers, or supervisors had ever been trained in performance management. That would have to change! The New VP of HR, Jane Phillips, had just been hired. In the selection process, Juanita had reinforced this priority for the person hired.

(6) There was a lack of information flow at all levels of the organization.

(7) Management systems and processes were either broken or had never existed in the first place.

(8) At all levels, a culture of self-defense was in place and led to ongoing suppression of real differences between individuals, teams, and departments. The collusion between unions and management stood-out. The agency had plenty of money; they had been in the habit of “buying-off” the unions to avoid labor disputes. Wages had consistently been above scale for the area. Juanita recognized the sense of false unity and harmony from her experience at Jacksonville. Underneath the love fest, she saw a volcano brewing.

(9) Few levels of management or departments were able to work as a team. This lack of teamwork trickled down to the front-line employee. Teamwork only occurred during emergencies.

(10) Juanita saw a fair amount of committee work on “employee task forces” but few results. People used the time to socialize.

(11) Work groups were fragmented and dominated by “difficult people”. Managers seemed to lack leadership or organizing skills. Sometimes the “difficult people” were employees who seemed more competent than their supervisors.

Despite the problems, Juanita was encouraged. She had a high-powered executive team committed to strategic change and human resource development. The old and ineffective executive team was gone and she and her team could now capitalize on the many strengths. These included:

(1) A strong belief among employees that Gulfport Transit had the potential to be a leader in transportation (many of them were ready to fight for it.).

(2) Employees were educated and strong on customer service; they tended to personify the entrepreneurial spirit that had brought so many small and medium-sized firms to the Tampa Bay region.

(3) Many employees had personal “visions of excellence” waiting to be tapped, if only someone had the will to do it.

(4) Small cadres of employees were dedicated to personal mastery for the purpose of making Gulfport a “better place to work”. These were “role models from the bottom”, reinforced by recognition from their peers and sustained by their own sense of values of purpose.

(5) Some union leaders and middle managers had been counter-cultural in the old system. Juan Trujillo, a young, idealistic business agent for the ATW, had said: “Even though there have been a lot of broken promises around here, I set my goals, act until I get results, smile a lot, and rely on the occasional success to keep me going.”

To fill-in the gaps, Joyce and her team would act as role models to generate a positive work culture and results focus. She was ready to roll-up her sleeves.

HRDV Program Assessment Case Questions

Juanita Barges is on a mission to turn Gulfport Transit around and develop it into a high performing organization. As her HRDV consultant, you will need to answer the following questions fully and with specific examples and details. Where appropriate provide discussion for all three levels of Gulfport: organization wide, team or department level and at the individual level.

(1) In her preliminary preparation for a full diagnosis of Gulfport Transit, what important areas and topics should CEO Barges identify regarding performance issues at Gulfport?

(2) Force field analysis is an organizational development tool that highlights the forces in the situation which support change to those forces working against change. Use the force field analysis methodologyto diagnosis the forces for and against change in this case. As a result of your analysis, summarize the organization’s readiness for change. (See Force Field Analysis Instructions and Example Force Field Analysis Diagram, following Question 4 below.)

(3) How might each of the HRDV course content areas in the Webster University’s Masters in HRDV contribute to Gulfport’s Strategic HRDV Change Plan? The courses are: HRDV 5610, Training and Development; HRDV 5560, Group Development and Change; HRDV 5630, Organization Development and Change; and Career Management.

· Recommend one theory-based intervention derived from each courseand

· Indicate how you would use it to improve or transform the situation.

(4) From the interventions recommended in #3 above, choose one and provide a brief explanation of how you might evaluate its effectiveness using at least one quantitative indicator. Examples of areas for your discussion might include safety, maintenance turn around time and costs, among many other areas.

Force Field Analysis Instructions:

“Force Field Analysis is a method for listing, discussing, and evaluating the various forces for and against a proposed change. Forces that help us achieve the change are called “driving forces.” Forces that work against the change are called “restraining forces.” Force Field Analysis can be used to develop an action plan to implement a change. Specifically it can . . .
Determine if a proposed change can get needed support
Identify obstacles to successful solutions
Suggest actions to reduce the strength of the obstacles
Types of forces to consider
Available Resources
Vested interests
Organizational structures
Social or organizational trends
Attitudes of people
Personal or group needs
Present or past practices
Institutional policies or norms

The Process

Start with a well-defined goal or change to be implemented.
Draw a force field diagram.
At the top of a large sheet of paper write the goal or change to be implemented.
Divide the paper into two columns by drawing a line down the middle. At the top of the left column, write “Driving Forces.” Label the right column “Restraining Forces.”
Brainstorm a list of driving and restraining forces and record them on the chart in the appropriate column.Once the driving and restraining forces have been identified, ask the following questions:

How significant are each of them?

What is their strength?

Which ones can be altered?

Which cannot?

Which forces can be altered quickly?

Which ones only slowly?

Which forces, if altered, would produce rapid change?

Which only slow change in the situation?

Assign a score to each force, from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong).
The score is based on (a) the strength of the force and (b) the degree to which it is possible to influence this force.
Calculate a total score for each of the two columns.”

Example Force Field Analysis Diagram

Goal or proposed change: To have no abandoned cars along city streets by May 1.

Driving Forces (the pro’s)

Restraining Forces (the con’s)

Interest in the problem has recently been expressed by advocacy groups.

The public service director supports the plan.

The City Council supports the plan.

Public climate favors cleaning up the city.

Local auto salvage yards have agreed to take the cars at no cost.

Health department cites old abandoned vehicles as potential health hazard.

The definition of “abandoned cars” is unclear to the public.

Owners of older cars feel threatened.

Difficult to locate abandoned cars.

Where to put the abandoned cars once identified?

Expense involved in locating and disposing of abandoned cars.

Need a procedure to verify vehicles declared “abandoned” and notify owners.

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