Forest Service Downward Trend Continues: 2013 Best Places to Work Rankings

2013_govt-wide

This is always a popular post. Here’s the link. Indeed, there are many things worth exploring. I was surprised that in 2011 there was such an exodus of employees about 4.5k of 30.5 K or about 15%. What’s odd about that is that I was still working then and don’t remember hearing about it.

Does anyone know of any public or FOIAble reports attempts to understand more about this.. If you asked Public Affairs, “does this seem like a problem?” and “what actions have been taken?”, I wonder what the answer would be?

41 Comments

  1. I remember the Chiefs Office attitude that W.V. stated. It got back to an ostrich mentality and doing the P.C. things publically and nothing on the ground, I guess. For a real feel of the problem, ask NAFSR.

    JOHN

  2. MD, I think that (transfer to ABQ) happened way before 2011. Maybe 2004/5 ish?

    I remember when we got a new Forest Supe on a southern Colorado forest, many years before that, he had to drive to ABQ to work out why he wasn’t getting paid.

    Also, we established a hotline and small team in our region to deal with the big pile of ASC issues we had around the “many people not getting paid” period of time..think that that was maybe 2007?

    One of my first jobs was as a Lab Director of a lab then housed at Placerville Nursery. There were seasonal life and pack folks so at that time the priority was always “getting people paid comes first.” We all believed and subscribed to that value.

    It seems to me, that the farther away you the HR person, are from the “not paid” person, the easier it is to have different priorities. Still “centralization” for “efficiency” was a management theory that was much in vogue for a time. Perhaps still is.

    One last irritating thing about that centralization. If you had done a real “civil rights” analysis on this, you would have learned that mostly women employees would be let go (because they worked in administration and were unwilling to move). As always, it’s interesting what things get analyzed carefully and which ones don’t.

    Perhaps even more irritating, if you look at it “from the balcony” (as my dear former boss Richard Stem would say), you see that experienced good women were let go because they couldn’t move, people who didn’t know much were hired in ABQ, then, shortly thereafter, it was decided to encourage people to work at home from wherever. Seems like they could have skipped the whole “letting experienced people go” step.

    Note: I am not blaming the FS entirely for all this. Management fads are foisted on the government by consulting firms who capture the attention of OMB (through political contributions? Not to be excessively cynical..). If I were Queen of the Government, I would establish a bipartisan committee of experienced and successful managers with the role of weeding out “dumb management fads” from interfering with federal work.

    Note 2: Our Regional Forester at the time was thinking of trying to work through BLM’s HR office instead, who didn’t have these same problems. I suspect this was not a popular idea, but I don’t know.

    • I’m guessing that Gina King did all your personnel stuff for you, too. Yes, she was definitely an “old school” kind of personnel person, and one of the kindest people you would ever meet. Oddly enough, she ended up marrying her old boss, Al De Haas. They both seem extremely happy in retirement, now.

      • Yup, Gina was a shining star in my daily life at the nursery!

        It’s interesting though, as due to my experiences with her, those became my expectations of “the Forest Service” way. When people move around so much it’s pretty easy to have wildly different ideas of ” the Forest Service way” on any topic.

  3. Every year, the Forest Service gets hammered by its employees over the quality of the agency’s senior leadership. Meanwhile, when it comes to leadership, five of the top-20 ranked agencies are components of NASA.

    It appears the employees’ rankings are borne out in other ways, too. The two highest civilian awards granted in the Senior Executive Service are the “Presidential Rank Award of Distinguished Executive” (no more than 1% of SES can receive this award annually) and the “Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive” (no more than 5% of SES).

    NASA’s highest-ranking civilian employee, Robert Lightfoot, Jr, has received both of these top SES awards. NASA’s senior leadership is chock full of award winners, including Patrick Sheuermann (head of the Marshall Space Flight Center, which enjoys a #3 ranking for senior leadership in the Best Places to Work survey) and Richard Gilbrech, who directs the Stennis Space Center, which is ranked #1 for senior leadership. It’s not like NASA falls down on the job when it comes to “diversity” hires either. Consider Ellen Ochoa, another Presidential Rank Award winner, deputy director at the Johnson Space Center for six years and, since 2013, the Center’s director (she has had three schools named after her and not even 60 years old yet!). The Johnson Center ranked 12th for senior leadership this year. Rounding out NASA offices in the top 20 is the Langley Research Center where Stephen Jurczyk, another Presidential Rank Award winner, has been assistant and is now acting director.

    Let’s now turn to the Forest Service’s senior leadership and its cadre of Presidential Rank Award winners. Hmm . . . that’s a short list. As far as I can tell from Google, there is no one employed currently in the Forest Service who has received one of these awards. Retired award recipients include Southern Research Station Director Pete Roussopoulos, Northeast Research Station plant physiologist Melvin Tyree, former Chiefs Mike Dombeck and Max Peterson, Associate Chief Hank Kashdan, and Regional Foresters Jeff Sirmon and Denny Bschor. [Sorry if I've missed anyone!]

    What keeps the Forest Service from hiring, promoting or retaining the best and the brightest leaders? Why does NASA do leadership right and the Forest Service doesn’t have a clue?

    • Andy… Thanks for bringing this up. I wish we could take a small percentage of our climate change projection research (“how might climate change affect the frilled liverwort?”) and ask questions about this kind of thing.

      When we were going down to the “next level of detail” in R-2 with more detailed questionaires to understand better, it seemed like if you were on a district
      you thought your ranger was OK, the supe was generally OK but questionable, the RF a meddling dunderhead, the Chief clueless and the politicals (of either party) clueless and possible evil. (OK, I’ve taken a little literary license here.;)

      My hypothesis would be that if the NASA heads suddenly told people not to go to scientific meetings because it might look bad, they would get a lot of bad feedback or they would never do it. So I think there are decisions made that are highly annoying and must have been made at a higher level that the employee doesn’t know, so they blame the Chief or the Dept.

      It wouldn’t take much to go back and do other surveys and ask questions about “why do you think that the ratings are low?” Our Region did it. Others probably have also. In the interests of transparency, I think the FS should post them. Or others more FOIA knowledgeable could FOIA them and we could post and discuss here or elsewhere.

      Finally, my experience in research-like organizations like NASA is that as long as you bring in research bucks and let people alone to do their work they are pretty happy. Everyone loves what they do there and the public loves it too, as far as I know.

      Dealing with conflicting natural resource uses is not quite the same kumbaya kind of environment, so perhaps just a comparison with the BLM would be appropriate and highly information-rich. Then the next likely match might be regulators who have to deal with conflicts between the regulated and other stakeholders.

      Maybe the easiest was would be to bring in a team of high performers from various agencies and have them do a review. Half and half from different (not current) administrations so they could be open about the way the politicals might also improve.

    • Oh, Andy, another thing, I know and have worked with all the folks mentioned except Bshor, and they are all good folks. But any award requires other components than simply being “superior” in some respect. Generally they require nominators with a lot of enthusiasm and time to work on the paperwork, and random political (small p) toggle switches all set to “on.” Plus usually some small or large-scale “politicking” for your desired candidate.

      Based on your list, the leaders selected are also not very diverse (which I hope doesn’t imply that the diverse folks in those positions were not as good). As a former employee, I could think of other Station Directors, Regional Foresters and Chiefs that I feel were equally deserving.

    • I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison.

      NASA – “Sky’s the Limit”…3X the budget and ½ – 2/3 the people. Clear missions (build some space junk-send it into the cosmos; make something faster; study something, etc). “ I wanna be an astronaut when I grow up” workforce. Little to no public input needed to do their jobs. What a fun leadership environment that sounds like!

      Forest Service – “Forest for the Trees” …Still operating under the trite and demented (but appropriate) mentality that “if you’re pissing off everybody you must be doing something right”. “I wanna work in the woods when I grow up” workforce. Lots of (relentless) public input, objections, litigation. Folks are confused on how best to do their jobs and “care for the land and serve the people”. How can leadership be more effective given those realities?

      Curious for feedback. It’ll feed into a project I have going on.

    • I’m not sure that’s a fair comparison.

      NASA – “Sky’s the Limit”…3X the budget and ½ – 2/3 the people. Clear missions (build some space junk-send it into the cosmos; make something faster; study something, etc). “ I wanna be an astronaut when I grow up” workforce. Little to no public input needed to do their jobs. What a fun leadership environment that sounds like!

      Forest Service – “Forest for the Trees” …Still operating under the trite and demented (but appropriate) mentality that “if you’re pissing off everybody you must be doing something right”. I wanna work in the woods when I grow up workforce. Lots of (relentless) public input, objections, litigation. Folks are confused on how best to do their jobs and “care for the land and serve the people”. How can leadership be more effective given those realities?

      Curious for feedback. It’ll feed into a project I have going on.

      • JZ,

        NASA’s and the Forest Service’s inherent differences (budget, mission, public perception) might explain their relative placement on the employee satisfaction index in any given year, as you suggest. But those differences cannot explain each agency’s year-to-year trend.

        For example, NASA’s Stennis Space Center’s overall employee satisfaction has climbed steadily since 2005, going from a score of 70.5 to 84.3 (now #2 in government). Its senior leadership score has increased over time even more dramatically, from 47.7 to 75.9 (#1 in the land). These upward trends within NASA are happening even as NASA’s budget, mission, “I wanna be an astronaut,” and the like remain pretty much the same. If anything, it could be argued that NASA’s challenges rival the Forest Service’s — remember the Space Shuttle (may it rest in peace)?

        How about the Forest Service’s trends? Its overall 2003 score of 60.6 has plummeted steadily to today’s score of 49.0. Ditto “senior leaders,” which has dropped from 41.2 to 33.2.

        In sum, NASA has shown an improving trajectory over the last decade while the Forest Service has plummeted. These trends cannot be readily explained by contrasts between the agencies. In other words, the possibility that NASA is simply a better place to work than the Forest Service cannot explain why NASA as become an even better place over time while the Forest Service has become even worse over time.

  4. It is hard to blame one thing on the low rankings for the FS. In fact it is likely a multitude of reasons for the low rankings.
    – dimishing bugets and do more with less.
    – embracing a diversity of directions and opinions that lead to confusion
    – The agency has become more politicized
    – Mandates and decrees from outside the agency
    -Increasing influence and polarity from special interests.
    -Lack of career ladders in many areas
    -Disproportionly funding in many areas (fire comes to mind)
    – Advocacy being mistaken for science
    – Poor relations with the public
    – NEPA requirements and analysis that have been increasing in complexity
    – Requirements from regulatory agencies for ESA.
    There are probably more that could be listed, but I sure would not put all or even most of the blame on Senior Leadership.

    • Michael D.,

      I agree that all the factors you cite qualitatively affect employees’ morale. But, the Best Places to Work index is based on quantitative scores across 13 different categories (e.g., “Support for Diversity,” “Pay,” “Strategic Management.”)

      One of those categories, “Effective Leadership: Senior Leaders,” has the lowest score of the 13 categories in almost every year (one year it was tied for lowest and in another year it was second-from-lowest) since 2003. “Senior Leaders” is the single most significant cause of the FS’s overall low index rating.

      The “Best Places to Work” authors seem to agree: “Many issues influence how employees view their workplaces and rate their satisfaction and commitment, but the Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte, with support from Hay Group, run an analysis to determine which factors are the most important. Effective leadership was the key driver, as it has been every year since the rankings launched in 2003.

      • Andy

        I am not defending the senior leadership, it could certainly improve. But human nature always tends to blame who ever is in charge. An example would be blaming Obama for things not going your way, or the ever popular It’s all Bush’s fault. If things are going good, we are more likely to say we have good leadership, If they are going south we will blame it on poor leadership.

  5. FWIW – My “from the outside” opinion is that their is no hope for the USFS no matter how good the employees and leadership are. You can’t effectively manage an organization if the goals are meaningless self contradicting platitudes that can’t be consistently executed and can be second guessed and interfered with by every Tom, Dick and Harry and every shift in the political wind.

  6. And you wonder why the Administration is pimping America’s Great Outdoors program?
    The land agencies are hurting for recruits, the colleges aren’t getting ology students, and the Green groups don’t have the money and their memberships are falling as all those hippies keel over.
    So — you have agitprop films like Untrammeled — did you see the “Come to Jesus” conversional moments featured in the trailer? The goal is to freak out urban kids with a tabula rasa mind when it comes to environmental issues. Get them interested in ology, run them through the narrow little pipeline through the right colleges and professors, and remake the agency in the desired (not necessarily desirable) image.

    • Some schools could offer an AA in Forestry?? AA being Academian Alchemy. Since the eco-lawyer career path seems saturated, the next activist opportunity is to make new science, extremely narrow in scope, designed to erode, by piecemeal, more well-rounded schools of thought, on active forest management.

      *smirk*

  7. Always an interesting topic for discussion, and I think that “all of the above” applies. I believe that the exodus that started in 2011 is simply the beginning of that retirement bubble we all heard was coming but which was postponed by the crash of the economy. I personally grabbed an early out on 12/30/12 for a variety of reasons, not least all the issues outlined above and reflected in the report. I see that it wasn’t just me who was unhappy with the agency. I was a deputy forest supervisor and knew the DC players, so I know who I was thinking about when I answered the “senior leadership” questions (mostly USDA appointees), but who was someone on the ranger district thinking of? Me?

    I worked for legislative affairs in the WO, and had the business operations “account” when we went through all the centralization starting about 2004. I should probably write down my thoughts before they are lost to the ether, but that’s a topic for another day.

    I do know that Chief Tidwell formed an employee task force to look into past reports, but they never seemed to come up with anything much. To me, the issues are systemic and complex. The view looks so much different depending on where you sit.

    Reading through all these comments I thought of an article I read shortly before I retired. It is “Herbert Kaufman’s Forest Ranger Thirty Years Later: From Simplicity and Homogeneity to Complexity and Diversity” by Terence J. Tipple and J. Douglas Wellman, 1991. Some may know Terry Tipple, a former ranger who maybe saw the writing on the wall, got his PhD and works as a consultant today.

    I can’t paste a pdf into this comment column, but the paper’s gist is that the “relatively closed system of the 1950s has been opened through environmental legislation and increased public involvement. Earlier emphasis on efficiency and economy is now offset by a stress on representativeness and responsiveness.”

    In 1991, the authors state: “If one assumes that the Forest Service is, in fact, changing in the direction of representativeness and responsiveness, it is logical to wonder what effects these changes will have. Will the two sets of values (efficiency/economy and responsiveness/representativeness) blend together smoothly, leaving the agency stronger and more broadly based, as the current management philosophy assumes? Or will they clash and damage the agency and its standing?

    Definitive answers to these questions are not now available. . . . Over time the success or failure of the agency’s strategies for change will become clear. Some future indicators might include external support for Forest Service programs (as evidenced by annual appropriations and numbers of lawsuits/administrative appeals) and internal morale (as shown by work force satisfaction surveys).”

    Wouldn’t it be great to find a graduate student who could take on another look at Forest Service administration in the overall social context of the past 30 years to give us an update to the update of Kaufman’s Forest Ranger? Therein lies the answer as to why we are number 260 and falling.

    “Herbert Kaufman’s Forest Ranger Thirty Years Later: From Simplicity and Homogeneity to
    Complexity and Diversity” Author(s): Terence J. Tipple and J. Douglas Wellman. Source: Public Administration Review, Vol. 51, No. 5 (Sep. – Oct., 1991), pp. 421-428 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Society for Public AdministrationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/976411 .

    • Thanks, Teri. Terry and I worked together, much to our mutual enjoyment, on the ill-fated 1995 RPA Program, with the always-entertaining Tom Mills (Terry and Tom also worked on the Accountability Task Force).. I wonder whatever happened to that..

      Anyway, we would like to hear any reminiscing you would like to do. This blog a) it helps people outside understand what it’s like to work in the FS and b) for new FS employees it helps give some history (as well as for posterity, should anyone be interested). Since it is good to have caution about you say while employed, that leaves us retirees to share memories and opinions.

      If no one can find a free copy of the paper, I’ll do some digging.

      • Sharon, I have a pdf of the article, but couldn’t attach it to the comment. If you send me an email, I can send it to you.

        Now, if I could just find the time/interest to write those memoirs! I’m having too much fun!

        • somehow I couldn’t find your email.. mine is terraveritas at gmail.com Thanks!

          The great thing about being retired is you can write what you want, when you want, or not.. and there’s plenty of time. I figure I’ll wear the body parts out having fun for now, and when I am restricted to my rocking chair, there will be plenty of time. Of course, by then I may not remember…

  8. As Homeland Security becomes the firefighting arm of the federal government, the Forest Service should come out of USDA and be distributed amongst the Park Service, BIA and BLM to look more like the Bureau of Reclamation.

  9. LarryK

    I have advocated variations of the same streamlining by functional objectives in many comments here.

    My thinking is that the EPA should have to manage the lands which are off limits to sound forest management because of their rulings. They should have to live with the consequences of their rulings. As it is, they suffer no consequences for their rulings. Therefore they have no incentive to make any changes to balance the tradeoffs where their multiple rulings have negative impacts on other species by increasing the risk of catastrophic fire and beetle damage and by throwing the succesional age distribution out of whack and threatening / endangering species that depend on the underrepresented age classes.

    I would rather see all other federal forest lands split between the USFS for sound forest practices through matrix management and all of the Wilderness and other restricted timberlands should be given to the NPS (Nat’l Park Service).

    IMHO, the intermingling of these Restricted (EPA and NPS) lands would be better protected the more that they were inclusions within USFS matrix managed lands.

    BIA should be abolished and those lands should be given outright to the Indians that they were stolen from and BLM should also be abolished and the lands split between the USFS (timberlands) and the USDA (grazing lands) and the NPS (recreational) and the EPA.

    But – we all know that such thoughts are pure pipe dreams. Who knows, we might be better off if we gave all lands back to the Native Americans.

    • The GAO took a look at combining the USFS and BLM a few years ago and Congress punted due to the myriad issues it entailed–too complicated to unwind the Gordian knot. It almost seems like the whole thing needs to blow up to reconstruct it. I’m sure that the present system is not what Teddy Roosevelt would have wanted.

      All this reminds me of a time a few months ago when I met a Forest Service retiree at an event here in Tallahassee. He retired in 1989, the year I got my permanent position. I had to laugh when he told me that the agency was just going downhill by the time he left. I thought things were getting better back then.

      There are still many young folks out there clamoring to get into the agency. So again, I wonder if the view depends on where you sit.

      • If those “young folks” really want to get into the Agency, they’d better be thinking of getting a college degree. Even though it is looking like there will be more hands-on forest management, there are fewer and fewer forestry students willing to work as a temporary timbermarker. Here in California, there are about 2 dozen permanent seasonal jobs in timber sale prep, below the GS-9 level, on Ranger Districts. Most of them are filled with folks who have reached the top of their career ladders. There isn’t much turnover. The rest of the marking crews are temporaries, who come and go, from year to year, a revolving door of inexperience. The lower-level career ladders in timber management are barely held together with duct tape.

        The Age of the Forestry Technician is long-dead. Long-live “Federal McForestry”!

  10. Interestingly, this just came across my email, from the National Association of Forest Service Retirees, who asked Chief Tidwell about the survey results. Here is the Question followed by the Chief’s April 21, 2014 response:

    Question: Perhaps the greatest puzzle for retirees is the persistent morale problems within the agency as reflected in annual government-wide surveys. These reports identify concern about executive leadership as a major factor. Recognizing that the Department is not providing an environment that is supportive of agency leadership the question is:

    What steps are being taken by you, your Deputy Chief’s and senior Forest Service leadership to address this issue?

    Chief Tidwell’s Answer: In 2013 the FS ranked 260 out of 300 best places to work in the federal government; the low survey ranking continues to reflect employee concerns about the work environment.

    Only a minority of employees believe they have sufficient resources to do their work (29%); that their units are able to recruit people with the right skills (only 30%); feel they have a reasonable workload (43%); and feel personally empowered with respect to work processes (33%). Few believe that differences in performance are recognized in a meaningful way (24%), and that steps are taken to deal with poor performers (20%).

    At the same time, most employees agree the agency is successful at accomplishing its mission (55%) and is a good place to work (57%). An overwhelming majority of employees like what they do (86%) and believe the work is important (89%). Employees believe their work unit does good work (78%). A majority of employees are pleased with their immediate supervisors (67%), but most are less than satisfied with senior leadership (37%) and with policies and practices (27%).

    I am concerned by these results and we are taking steps to examine and address elements that reflect the lowest employee satisfaction including leadership engagement, conduct and poor performance actions, and awards and recognition. Additionally, we have conducted a second level analysis of FY12 survey results, completed in March, 2013, correlating survey responses with employee preferences. Units have reviewed results and have initiated actions to address local issues.

    A Leadership-Employee Engagement Framework, undertaken by all of USDA, provides leaders at all levels focus areas and are incorporated into performance standards. Forest Service specific activities:
    • In 2009, I instituted the “Chief’s Sensing Project” as a one means to hear directly what matters to Forest Service employees. The group includes a wide range of employees from all levels of the agency and across the country who meet with me on a regular basis.
    • In 2013 Associate Chief Mary Wagner and I spent two days with the majority of leadership teams in each Region and Station to hear their concerns and how we can strengthen leadership throughout the agency.
    • We have initiated Leadership Forum Sessions which are regular, web-based, virtual engagements with the more than 500 strong leadership of the FS to create deeper understanding and agreement on critical issues facing the agency, and to generate shared responsibility for taking action to deliver new results. Leaders have named the following compelling issues as the focus of the sessions:

    o Creating a leadership community with stronger capacity to work together on agency-wide strategic issues and achieve aligned actions.
    o Evoking a deeper sense of the Forest Service mission in today’s world – to gain clarity around mission, purpose, and capacity to deliver conservation.
    o Deepening understanding around and commitment to an inclusive and diverse workforce and a shared intention to move the agency forward.
    • The next phase of FS-wide Safety Engagement will be launched this year with a focus on workforce & workplace well-being.

    I am committed, as are all of FS Leadership, to continue to monitor FEVS results to determine the efficacy of actions taken and work to increase employee participation in upcoming surveys. The FY14 survey, slated to begin in early May, is particularly important for the FS as it will be a ‘census’ survey including all permanent employees (rather than a small subset as in previous years). We are poised to encourage all to participate to gain the most complete understanding of the viewpoint of our Agency.

      • And, Sharon, his last sentence about the next survey being of all employees reminds me of a major effort by leadership in 2011 or 2012 to get everyone who received a link to respond to the Best Places survey. The logic was that only the discontented were responding, bringing the results down. Of course, all the other agencies were undergoing the same level of screening, I believe.

    • It’s all-too-easy for the upper leadership to pass on plausible blame to Congress, their budgets and the rules, laws and policies of OPM. I would like to see a survey given out to leadership, to see what their opinions are and what their issues and barriers are to making the Forest Service a better place to work. With the Forest Service continuing to become more top-heavy, I don’t see any change on the horizon.

  11. In a word; process, try to hire someone, try to spend budgeted money on even little things (God forbid you need to go through IAS you need training just to make a request), try to report data with systems that change constantly when an Excel spreadsheet would do, Hell try to report anything., especially at the end of the fiscal and your still trying to field work done.
    Personnel evaluations that are absolutley mind numbing in their ability to capture nothing and provide no guidance for the evaluated. A NEPA process that is complex to begin with and then made even more so by leadership. The inability to make a decision for fear of making someone mad. A mission that in many ways conflicts with itself.
    Trainings constant training about diversity and diversity and more diversity. I don’t care if your polka dot can you work will you stay here for a while. Being told that there is a proces that can not be violated and then watching a Forest Supervisors pull some Micky Mouse move and get away with but hey they got a diversity feather in their cap. No leadership at all, voices rising up from the rank and file only to have lip service paid to them knowing full well that they did not climb that far up the food chain to upset the apple cart.
    Continuing to spend money on foresters that cannot get the cut out have no auxillary duties while others mange large programs as their primary and are still saddled with multiple duties. And no one seems to fix that. Wildlife programs that don’t seem to be able to say anything other than no or I don’t know and that are not held to standards. The inability of the FS to tell Congress to fix the damn grazing fee.
    Sorry I know I am rambling, but that seems to be about the only thing left to do.

    • OMG, Handlebar, I too had a series of flashbacks.
      Memories of IAS..

      But that’s a good example. People screw up. So we install systems to keep other people from screwing up. But the systems are themselves screwed up, so they end up torturing the innocent.

      The FS can do well with these systems (I was very impressed with the implementation of a new version of Paycheck and how they listened and helped support it) but doesn’t always. The impression that this leaves is that no one really cares to make things better. Because we know it’s possible, and yet it doesn’t happen.
      Note: I am going to use a bit more colorful language than usual here.. I hope no one is offended.

      Now in the case of silly things mandated by the Dept., the FS leadership is between a rock and a hard place. If they say “centralization has never worked and really meant greater efficiency, but this Dept. has drunk the Kool-Aid and not yet gotten a personal experience of the heaves” they would not be “team players.” But if they act like “our leadership wants it so no matter how silly it is we need to march along in that direction” they seem like toadies.

      If they said “sorry, you guys are hurting our folks with this silly idea, can’t live with it” they would simply be replaced by someone who either cared less or didn’t understand.

      Honestly I don’t know what the answer is, although MD suggested mandatory 360’s last year, and I posted this in 2011 http://forestpolicypub.com/2011/02/01/the-board-of-cranks-proposal/

      Even having a real complaint department with public explanations posted of complaints and why things aren’t working would help. I suggested that to the Chief once several years ago.

      Anyway, my question would be “what would they change if “they” (Dept plus Senior Leadership), really cared about employees?

  12. Hi Sharon,
    Now that I have settled down a bit, I was trying to think of what I would want Senior leadership to do.
    The short answer is I don’t know, it is much easier to gripe. But I think the agency needs to take a long hard look about what can we do to make the job easier. the requirements to manage lands with so many conflicting needs is difficult enough without the burdens that are placed on employees.
    Hiring should not be that difficult and need not have so many layers of mangement involvement particularily for many of our entry level seasonal jobs, for goodness sakes, for example two of my collegues spent the better part of March and April to hire two (2) 18 year old kids. Insane.
    Reporting could be streamlined and you should not have to have a software engineering degree to get into INFRA.
    Purchasing: Outside of the ACE system (which by the wayis one of the truely functional departments!!), buying anything is difficult. Especially for a more remote like Camp Crook SD.
    Oh, and Passwords, my God! We got these smart card that I had to travel 4 hours to get and I still have to manage passwords plus I just got a new PIN that I have to use to purchase fuel.

    I think I would like to see a retired Command Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps become the new Chief. That is the type of leadership I want. Someone who will rattle some cages. Provided of course that they came out of R1! I do feel sorry for people( in a way) that are kicking and stratching their way to the top out of R9 knowing that they can’t really make to the top.

    • I know a couple of ex-Marines who were excellent at cage-rattling, but the culture of the FS was that they had too many rough edges to be successful in the FS. I bet a study of comparative leadership culture with BLM and a couple higher ranking agencies would be interesting.

  13. I know from my experience with the FS is that they really sweat the small stuff while letting the more important things, like billions of dead trees, rot away.
    All you happily retired FS employees, was there no way to help, or is there not some way to help, what is happening, happen to the Forest Service?

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