Change Strategy for Morgan County


This paper is a change management strategy for Morgan County, with specific emphasis on the Planning and Development Services Department of Morgan County. Its composition is loosely derived from a template as put forth by Cohen (2005), and will address change urgency, guiding teams, visioning, communication, and implementing and sustaining change. Another imbedded framework of this evaluation comes from Cummings and Worley (2009), and assess the change from the organization, group, and individual level. The objective here is to provide a clear change strategy that can be used to create a more functional and organized system of governance.

The Climate for Change

Introducing the Urgency for Change

In order for a change strategy to be successful, there must be a clear urgency for change. Change urgency identifies the source problems, and explores the issues that they are causing.

Structure of Morgan County

Morgan County has a nonconventional form of County government. It predates the requirements for County governments as set forth in current Utah State Code. It consists of a seven person council that has executive, legislative, and administrative decision making power. The Council is restricted by bylaws from engaging in the day-to-day function of the administration, but is still expected to make administrative decisions. They are paid between $400 and $600 per month for their service, and they spend between two and eight hours a week conducting Council business. This form of government does not have a balancing of power between the executive, legislative, and administrative that other conforming County governments have. The Council exhibits management authority over County staff, but has no official power to over other elected officials.

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The County has six full time elected officials: the County Attorney, Recorder, Clerk, Assessor, Treasurer, and Sheriff. These individuals are elected by popular vote, and can only be unseated by popular vote. They have no term limits, so all of them have held their offices from one to three decades. The Council has no administrative power over them. They exhibit managerial leadership over the processes of their specific departments, but have no official authority over the staff that work in their departments.

Structure of the Planning and Development Services Department

The Planning and Development Services Department reports directly to the County Council. It has a director that is appointed by the Council, and all employees are appointed by the Council as well after recommendation from the director. The department is divided into three essential divisions: Building, Planning, and Geographic Information Systems. The department's administrative personnel function in the same capacity for the three divisions.

Change Relevance

There is urgency for change in the County form of government. As will be demonstrated below, the design components of the government structure is severely lacking.

The County does not currently have a strategy plan, an enunciated mission, or the performance measures necessary to set up a strong organizational structure. This is likely the combined result of the form of governance and incompetent leadership. Morgan County has a very small population, less than 8,000, and an even smaller selection pool of people who desire to serve in a County leadership role. There is little motivation to be involved in government aside from altruistic service ideals, or the desire for peer acknowledgement. As a result, Council members were elected on the basis of their preexisting popularity amongst their peers rather than their qualifications.

Historically, most members of the council lacked the knowledge, skills, and abilities to understand complex systems thinking. Further, I suggest that even if they did, the limitations that the form of government imposes on the Council, such as the restriction from engaging in day to day administration, and the effect it has on their ability to fulfill their responsibility to clearly and effectively lead their employees, would and does restrict positive and competent leadership anyway. Despite the seeming clarity of the organization flow chart, the reality is that there are some departments that do not have clear leadership from department heads, or a direct avenue for communication with the County Council. Past reorganization was aimed at strengthening the organization, but without a clear organizational structure, new employees find themselves making similar procedural follies for which former employees were terminated.

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The County does not have the structure or the qualified leadership necessary to initiate an organizational strategy map, mission, or clear measurement systems. There has not been a driving mechanism or individual or even systems accountability mechanism to do this either. What the County is really lacking, is a manager or administrator who is competent in systems complexity, and who is also an integral and functioning part of the day to day administration of governance.

The system of governance has a hefty challenge to change this problem. Inducing change in the system of governance requires a democratic majority vote of the public, and will require a change initiative beyond the scope of this change management strategy, but perhaps this strategy can also function as a needs assessment for change that is possible now. There are currently people in the community seeking to introduce the urgency of changing the form of government. This study will outline a change management strategy for the County to move to a more efficient form of governance, and will also focus on what changes can be made in the mean time. This study will also focus on the need for change within the Planning and Development Services Department.

With this introduction to the government system of Morgan County, we turn to the urgency for change within the Planning and Development Services Department. The Planning and Development Services Department is a budding department within Morgan County. It has been completely reorganized twice in as many years, and the staff who survived termination tend to be leery of further change.


Two years ago, a new department director was brought in to reform the department to an acceptable performance standard. No one really knew what that standard was supposed to be, but the new director started off with learning how the department was functioning before, a starting incrementally shifting it toward a more recognizable industry standard. His new public management style is refreshingly unique when compared to the embedded Morgan County institution of traditional public governance. The department took large strides in such a short period of time toward performance and output improvement that it received a great deal of attention from County leadership, so much so that other department leaders have begun seeking alternative management methods as well.

Recommended Strategy MapHowever, similar to the County as a whole, what was and still is lacking in the department is a clear mission, organizational strategy map, and clear measurement systems. A few months ago there was a programs evaluation that was conducted to determine the customer service performance of one of the department's programs. This study yielded nearly inconclusive results because there was no evaluative criteria from which to measure performance. The study resulted, rather, in the recommendation for the department to evaluate its relevance to the County government and its citizens. It recommended a departmental mission statement and strategy map that will help guide a visioning process and assist in creating and implementing clear goals and objectives. The department director shared the evaluation with staff, but has yet to make official strides to adopt the mission or strategy map, so the department goes on without clear direction.

Recommended Structure Chart

Another critical function that the program evaluation explained was missing was a well defined structure. No one could identify what the organizational chart actually looked like, even though most, including the director could have guessed. The evaluation resulted in a recommended organizational structure from which to govern team function, the task structure, and clear processes and programs. An official departmental structure has yet to be adopted.

In early 2010, as part of the ongoing organizational progression, the director, by authorization of the council, employed a very capable and highly qualified department assistant. Her role in the department is similar to that of a department secretary. In late 2010, one of the elected Council members suffered medical complications and had to resign his post. According to the structure of government, the vacant seat must be filled by an appointee for the remainder of the Councilman's term, which at that time was two years. After seeking advice from the department director as well as legal counsel, the department secretary decided to apply for the open position with the understanding that she would not be required to forgo her current position in the department. After several interviews, she was determined to be the most qualified for the position, and was appointed for the remainder of the term. She was also allowed to retain her current position in the department. This organizational change has introduced some complications into the group composition that are both obvious and obscure.

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It is important to note that neither the director not the Councilwoman have any malicious intent. Both desire to foster relationships of success and collaboration. When the Councilwoman is performing her office duties, she desires to be respectful to the director's leadership. When she is acting as a Councilwoman, the director desires to respect her leadership. However, despite the desired mutual respect, the secretary is naturally beginning to fill the shoes of a Councilwoman, with all the authority built into the position, which induces leadership power confusion into the department that is currently effecting employee morale, team functioning, and other group norms. This power confusion is why Gulick wrote about the necessary establishment of system authority (1996, p.81). In order to achieve organizational success, a director must be allowed to facilitate and energize the work (p.82). He argues that there should be one "master" facilitator. Multiple masters will only confuse the work, disrupt group functionality, and can ultimately cause departmental dysfunction (p.83).

In the same manner that Peter Scholtes describes parts of a system, the department has its own purpose and personality that contributes to the government organization in both positive and potentially negative ways (1998, p.22). Given no specific organizational mission, goals, or objectives, the positive contributions are evidence by the department's ability to satisfy the needs of the County Council. The negative contributions can be contributed to the organization's lack of mission, goals, and objectives; they can also be contributed to lacking leadership from the department, who is responsible for the department as a function in the system.

One such negative contribution is the oh-so-common departmental desire for a larger slice of the budgetary pie than was awarded the year prior. The County fosters no collaborative effort for departments to meet their financial needs, which leaves a big unknown when department heads meet with the County Council individually to discuss annual budgetary issues. For example, when one department requires a particular tool that was already awarded to another department, this could (and has) create a competitive environment if leadership incompetence cannot learn appropriate collaboration between departments. Fostering an environment of competition is not conducive to organizational success, and puts not only departments at odds with each other, but each department at odds with the County Council. The problem here is imbedded in the organizational culture, of which both department leaders and the County Council have fostered an environment of competition rather than collaboration.

This is relevant to the relationship between the new Councilwoman and the Planning and Development Services Department Director. During budget season, the director is responsible for competing for the needs of his department, while the Councilwoman has a fiduciary responsibility to seek out the needs of the whole organization. Under this theme, Scholtes said, "When rewards are a matter of internal competition among coworkers, they create winners and losers and adversarial relationships among those who should be colleagues. (p. 39)"

Organizational design, group design, and personal characteristics are all inputs that go into the design components of the individual level (Cummings & Worley, 2009). The organizational dysfunction as a cause of poor government structure and incompetent leadership, and the departmental dysfunction as a cause of leadership confusion and lack of clear department goals, objectives, and directives have dramatic effect on the employee. These complications obscure the identification and prioritization of tasks, which in turn sends false negative signals to both customers and to leadership that staff are incompetent. The idea of staff incompetence stimulates leadership to conduct more micromanagement rather than allowing employees to perform their tasks in a quasi-autonomous environment. This phenomenon is an all-too-common reflex that suffocates employee motivation, learning and creativity, and creates a rigid organizational structure that appears incompetent as a whole. (find sources and citations)

Change Strategy

This change strategy is aimed to shift government administration away from the old traditional form of management, which Salamon calls a hierarchal system of management, that pits public interests against private interests, and is made for the purpose of command and control (Salamon, 2002). McGregor indicates that this system assumes that employees are by nature lazy, selfish, and will get out of work whenever possible, and that people need to be forced and controlled (McGregor, 2008). Salamon goes on to argue that a new governance paradigm is called for to shift program and agency to tool; hierarchy to network; public vs. private to public and private; command and control to negotiation and persuasion; and from management skills to enablement, or facilitation skills. This strategy is aimed to do just that.

Organizational Level.

As mentioned, changing the form of County government is beyond the scope of this change strategy. However, there are ways in which the current system fundamentally functions that can and should be changed in order to provide a better system of government services administration.

1. Mission Statement. I recommend designing an official mission statement. A mission statement is the fundamental foundation from which an organizational structure can be framed (Insert a quote with citation). A mission statement must assess the County's relevance to its stakeholders. Clear identification of stakeholders is necessary to complete this task. To start the County out, I suggest the following stakeholders:

The tax payers of the County

Elected officials

internal government leaders

Internal government employees

External governmental agencies

Land owners

Political lobbyist and activists

Special interest groups


2. Strategy Map. After a mission statement is established, I recommend creating a strategic map of the organization. A strategy map includes (find strategy map info, and cite).

3. Goals and Objectives. The mission statement and strategy map are essential in order to identify goals and objectives for the organization. Goals and objectives facilitate and give relevance to the organizational structure; they help leadership define standards for measures of success; and they provide evaluative criteria from which to base a human resource system.

4. Needs Evaluation. The organization should conduct a needs assessment that flushes out what each department needs to be successful, and what is currently lacking. If there are performance problem areas, the needs assessment should help determine what the deficiencies result from. Needs evaluations should be conducted regularly, as needs shift over time.

Even though the current form of government does not provide for a strong administrative leader, these changes are attainable with the current system as long as values of collaboration and working as a team are built into the function of the County Council. (Cite something about teams).

Building Guiding Teams and Provide Communication

Generally, the current organizational culture is very resistive to change. Employees and leaders feel rooted in how things have been done. In the past, the Council has organized and re-organized those departments within their control, but lasting change has not solidified because these changes have been more like moving around deck chair on the sinking titanic. Change must not only come from the Council, it must come from within, especially from other elected officials who seem to be the most rooted in how things are. They must be convinced that there is a problem, and that they are part of the solution. Building an executive guiding team will help the big change decisions go over on the organization easier. Building smaller guiding teams that consist of an eclectic cross section of staff will help disseminate the reason and purpose of the change, and increase employee buy-in.

Guiding teams are only part of the battle. The organization must foster a sense of open communication, wherein leaders can express the need for change, and employees feel safe to speak their opinions. Keeping an open feedback loop from the entire organization will help the County reconnect with itself as a system of networks rather than as a hierarchal form of command and control.

To foster successful change, the County must eliminate all sense of competition. Whether for a larger slice of the budget pie, or for leadership control, or any other reason, inducing competition into an organization turns it on itself, and undermines success. A better network of collaboration is necessary. If the organizational culture can shift from any reliance on competition between departments in favor of collaboration the "winner-loser" effect can be eliminated between department heads and between the Council and each department.

Department Level.

Regardless of whether or not the County will change, the Planning and Development Services Department can still set up a better system of governance within itself. Everything that the County is lacking as a whole (i.e., mission, vision, strategic plan, goals and objectives, and measures of success) is also lacking in the department. As refreshing as the directors new leadership style is, it can still be improved. It currently appears that because measures of success are not clearly defined, the director occasionally uses that as a method of shifting the groups direction. This uncertainty requires staff to abandon any sense of autonomy or internal collaboration to hold on to the his shifting direction. In order for the department to act more as a team, the director should create clear parameters to which he and all others can adhere, then the group can shift from codependency on the director in favor an interdependent team.

As with the County as an organization, replacing competition for collaboration will eliminate the dissonance between the Planning and Development Services Director and the secretary/councilwoman. When the network is seeking to fulfill a common mission, then team directives are easily negotiated. Working as a team, with leadership acting more in a facilitation or enablement role, the department can move from an agency, to a tool of the County's government. (Salamon, 2002)

Individual Level.

If the organizational and departmental levels can provide the clear directive, then the human side of the organization can finally be empowered to perform. The change may be difficult for some who are rooted in the old ways. The fear of change is essentially the fear of the unknown. Leadership must answer many of these unknowns by facilitating task identity and priority, ensuring adequate training in new processes, and establish clear expectations and measures of success. These components, combined with a structured mission, and goals and objectives, will help give employees the autonomy they need to perform for the department, which, as Scholtes indicates, when aligned with the organization will in turn provide for the County as a whole.

Leaders will be wise to understand that current employees have been conditioned to act in a manner that is codependent on leadership. Coens and Jenkins writes:

"After decades of conditioning employees to believe that someone else is responsible for their growth and welfare, addressing the core motivators will feel awkward and uncomfortable for supervisors and employees." (2002)

Implementing and Sustaining Change

Cohen indicates that it may be easy for a change initiative to slide back into the old ways. He suggests, as I am now suggesting, that constantly inducing the urgency for change into the structure is imperative to a successful change. There should be a degree of persistence that allows the organization to continually evaluate the stage that the change is at, and alter the conversation about the change as appropriate. The consistent and open dialogue about the change can be emphasized by displaying the small successes that the change gives the organization over time. Constant change monitoring is essential to convincing the organization that the change is worth the effort, and will pay off in the end.