Middle East District charts course for 2010

Middle East District
Published Nov. 30, 2009

MIDDLE EAST DISTRICT, Winchester, Va. --For the past three years, the Middle East District has engaged in a formal strategic planning process to help guide its actions. The process connects organizational goals to employee performance objectives with an end goal of improving service to customers.

For fiscal year 2010, MED has six major strategic initiatives.

The six initiatives fall into “the Mission, Workforce, Financial, and Relationships structure, which is out of a book called The Balanced Scorecard,” said Col. Ronald N. Light, commander.

The balanced scorecard is a strategic performance management tool that aligns an organization’s actions to its overall objectives.
That definition begins to resonate when employees see firsthand how strategic planning affects them. It’s more than posting a copy of the strategic plan poster produced each fiscal year. Many employees will be assigned or volunteer to work on an action item. And every employee sees the quadrants reflected in his/her performance plan that contains prescribed targets for performance.

“Everyone has a part in the strategic plan,” Light said. “Our performance plans are aligned with organizational goals, and all of it points to better serving customers.

“The balanced scorecard is a notion that you don’t do something in one quadrant that adversely impacts another quadrant,” Light said. “An easy example concerns the 59-minute rule. We wouldn’t give 59 minutes off every week; maybe it would make some of the workforce happier, but it would impact financial and have a direct impact on mission. Whatever we do in one quadrant cannot negatively affect work in another quadrant.”

In fact, the end result is to have synergy with all our initiatives, with action items that positively impact the other quadrants, said Roger Vogler, chief, Engineering Division.

Each quadrant of the strategic plan lists overall objectives, which may or may not change from year to year, and the fiscal year action items.

MED leaders have summarized the focus of each quadrant as follows:

Mission: Deliver quality products and services

Workforce: Invest in people

Financial: Use customer funds wisely

Relationships: Build trust and improve customer relationships

In the strategic planning process atmosphere, participants may find themselves eagerly listing action items to improve MED’s operations. The commander encourages them to “limit selections from the buffet table.”

“When we do our strategic planning, we look at the big picture items – at what will move us forward,” said Lt. Col. Donald E. Johantges, deputy commander. “The items that make the cut are those that focus on critical issues that must be addressed corporately and which cross over multiple functional areas. When other issues arise that aren’t at the strategic level or that one or two offices can address separately, they hit the task list for action. Those actions are important and have to get done, but they’re not actions we need to address at the strategic level.”

Teams formed to address strategic initiatives generally must complete their work within the fiscal year.

MED leadership held its FY-10 strategic planning session Oct. 1-2 at the George Washington Hotel in Winchester, Va. The workshop included primary staff members, division chiefs, selected branch chiefs, and some members of the leadership development program.

Since returning from the planning sessions, MED has moved out smartly. Vogler briefed all employees on the FY-10 plan at a town-hall meeting a week later. Work has already begun with teams forming and beginning their projects. The commander and corporate board monitor progress of each initiative at monthly meetings.

In addition, MED has nested its strategic plan in the USACE campaign plan.
FY 2010 Strategic Initiatives

The Mission action items are:

  • Implement the transition process for the purpose of advancing projects from award to post-award in order to achieve groundbreaking on schedule. (Champion: Darralyn Williams)
  • Implement the design-build process in order to expedite construction start. (Champion: Roger Vogler and Roger Thomas)

The pre-award to post-award transition initiative focuses on the loss of momentum that sometimes occurs after contract award, resulting in a slow start to construction.

“We want to implement a process where we can get construction started sooner, with the expectation that then the projects are completed sooner, allowing customers to take beneficial occupancy,” Vogler said.

“With the design-build initiative, we certainly have been using design-build for many projects,” he continued. “But we haven’t been taking full advantage of the design-build process to fast track a project or maximize contractor innovation. This initiative will prompt us to look at ways to use design-build more effectively to take advantage of these opportunities.”

These action items support two mission objectives: “to deliver quality products, projects, and services on time, on budget, and safely” and “to improve delivery and management of reach-back support.”

The Workforce action item is to define the MED target organization in order to project workforce structure to meet future workload and facilitate succession planning. (Champions: Tom Jankiewicz and Carroll McDonald)

“Since we don’t have a good overall picture of what we expect MED to look like in the future, we need to evaluate our structure and plan accordingly,” Vogler said. “We need to relook our structure in light of increased reach-back responsibilities, to size the support staff to accommodate the increased workforce, and to backfill those who are eligible to retire.”

This action item addresses the objective to “attract, recruit, and retain a highly qualified and diverse workforce.”

The Financial quadrant has one action item: to develop MED position control points in order to provide career paths and ensure long-term affordability. (Champion: Sue Stamey)

MED leaders expressed their concerns that pay increases under NSPS are driving up the rates charged to customers for services. This initiative will look at setting control points within pay bands to pay employees commensurate with the duties they perform.

This action supports the objective to “improve use of customer funds and strengthen the long-term viability of MED.”

Participants identified two action items for the Relationships quadrant:

  • Provide cultural awareness training in order to educate the workforce to build more effective relationships with our international customers. (Champion: Derek Santos)
  • Develop standards for project delivery team interactions with stakeholders at specific stages of project delivery in order to increase customer satisfaction. (Champion: Deborah Duncan)

MED leaders recognized that with many new employees working for the district, a cultural awareness training initiative will help people to be more effective by increasing cultural sensitivity as they work with international customers.

The second objective is aimed at engaging customers at all levels to keep them fully informed.

“We discovered recently that we lost some opportunities for customer interaction when our project delivery teams did not meet with all key stakeholders when they travelled to a project,” said Deborah Duncan, chief, Programs and Project Management Division. “We will use this initiative to identify specific points where PDTs should engage with our customers.”

Both initiatives support the objective to “equip the MED workforce to more effectively interact with our customers, partners, and stakeholders.”