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Why I Wrote These Pages
Who I Am
My Background
How Downsizing, Outsourcing, & Privatization Have Affected My Job
--One Explanation of Why County Government Changed
--The Board of Supervisors Hires a Hatchetman for All Seasons
--Management Bonuses
--Departments are Reorganized.



Why I Wrote These Pages

There is a story that Sojourner Truth was speaking out against slavery one day. An old man in the audience heckled her: "Old woman, do you think that your talk about slavery does any good? Why I don't care any more for your talk than I do for the bite of a flea." "Perhaps not," she replied, "But the Lord willing, I'll keep you scratching."
I believe that if you are not happy with the way things are, then you have the responsibility to try to change things, even if all you can do is talk.
Besides, if all of us are quiet, they are going to think we are content.

Who I Am
I think when you read a web page you deserve to know something about the writer. Below is a list of groups I belong to. The names with the asterisk (*) are those I give money to. The groups are in chronological order, with the groups I joined first at the top.

Local 535 SEIU*
Walkabout International*
San Diego Computer Society (Macintosh Division)*
Fan of the Group The Wild Oats
San Diego S.T.A.R.
Darkstar: The Science Fiction & Gaming Club at UCSD
International Dark-Sky Association (IDA)*
Digital Design & Electronic Publishing SIG
Friends of Lulu*
HERC - Harlan Ellison Recording Collection*
San Diego Astronomy Association*
San Diego Natural History Museum Association*
National Eligibility Workers Association (NEW)*

These pages were not written for, or at the request of , any group or organization. I wrote these pages, and any mistakes in them are mine.
The content is my opinion, based on what I have seen, read, and heard. I am only one person, and I am sure I have misinterpreted some of the things that have happened. Still, someone needs to say something to balance the propaganda of  The San Diego Union, The County News (a paper newsletter for County Employees), The E-County Connection Newsletters (you can download  pdf copies from  The IT Outsourcing Page), The Synergy Bulletin, The County Television Nework, and the San Diego County Web Page.
I have tried to report what I have seen myself, or what has been reported by people I trust. What I have identified as "rumors" are things that not could be verified.

My Background

Many years ago I worked for a small non-profit company where the Personnel Manager had a special procedure for firing people he didn't like: He would call them into his office on Friday evening and tell them they were fired and not to come back. Then, over the weekend, he would have the furniture rearranged. The rest of us would come to work on Monday and try to figure out where our desks were, and then try to figure out who was gone.
I decided then that I would find a job with more security. I went to work for the County of San Diego,   where I believed that if I did my job well I would have job security and I would be treated with fairness.
Now the County is in the middle of "downsizing", "privatizing", "outsourcing", and "re-engineering". People are let go with a little more warning and instead of moving the furniture around after they are gone, they rearrange the entire organization, but still, I am left with the same feeling of insecurity that I had in the old job.
In 1996, though, the Board of Supervisors hired a new CEO nicknamed "Chainsaw", and he started to implement things that somebody on the Board of Supervisors had read about in a book called Reinventing Government. We were told that the County would be downsizing, and that an unspecified number of positions would be cut both among lineworkers and middle management. They also reorganized the lines of command, and talked about "flattening" the organization so that there would fewer middle managers.
In January 1998 the department where I work began Welfare Reform  - a major revamping of Welfare. In addition to our previous work we were expected to head clients towards job readiness, make sure that pre-school children  had up-to-date immunizations, school-age children were in school, check law enforcement penalties for adults' felony drug convictions, and provide "excellent customer service." Doing this, while the County reorganized and downsized and privatized around us, was like living in a house that was being remodeled.
Change is nothing new in our job. Each new administration institutes reforms and we rush to implement them. There will be chaos for a few months, then problems will be resolved. This time, though, nobody seemed to hear us when we tried to tell upper management that some things just weren't working and clients just were not being served. They were too busy dealing with reorganizing, downsizing, and privatizing.** Some people in my office started leaving, retiring early, going on long-term disability leave. Some of those who remained just seemed to be marking time, and worse, some people who had been excellent workers told me that they no longer cared about doing the job well.
I started reading about downsizing, outsourcing, and privatization, and comparing what was written with what was happening where I worked. These pages may serve as some kind of historical document, if nothing else. I am told by my betters that I don't see the big picture, and "we are really doing this for the best reasons."  Still there has been great devastation around me, and I think it will be a long time before many line workers regain their trust and their loyalty to the County. It didn't have to happen. I believe that you can change organizations without taking a hatchet to them.

How Downsizing, Outsourcing, & Privatization Have Affected My Job

One Explanation of Why County Government Changed
Someone told me that it all started when a member of the Board of Supervisors read the book Reinventing Government.  This book suggested that government could be improved by applying principles of good business management. I got the book from the library and read it, then bought and read the sequel, Banishing Bureaucracy.  The main ideas of the first book are: Catalytic Government: "Steering Rather Than Rowing" (In other words, government is best at providing policy, social equity, direction to the economy, and preventing discrimination). Community-Owned Government. - Empowering the citizens, rather than serving them. Competitive Government: Injecting competition into service delivery . Mission-Driven Government -Transforming rules-driven organizations. Results-Oriented Government - Funding outputs, not inputs. Customer-Driven Government - Meeting the needs of the customer, not the bureaucracy.  Enterprising Government - Earning rather than spending.  Anticipatory Government -  Prevention rather than cure. Decentralized Government -   From hierarchy to participation and teamwork. Market Oriented Government. - Levering Change Through The Market.
I do not think you can blame a book for the damage done to the County by people who said they were acting under its inspiration. If you compare the advice in the book to what actually happened, you can see that a lot of crucial processes (like managed competition) were used only when it was convenient.
It seems like management has always liked fads: we've had "Quality Circles", "Management by Objective", "Empowerment", "Synergy", "Teamwork", "Employee of the Month", "Employee Recognition", "Task Forces", "Vision Planning", "Mission Statements" and "Committees".  If it's in Dilbert, we've done it.*

The Board of Supervisors Hires a Hatchetman For All Seasons

The County Board of Supervisors hired a CAO to implement the changes: to reorganize, downsize, and privatize. He was quickly nicknamed "Chainsaw", but I think that was exaggerating a bit -- he was no Al Dunlap (thank goodness!). He became a focus for all the discontent that the changes caused, but many people forget that he was hired by the Board of Supervisors. He was doing what he was told to do.

Management Bonuses and Salary Increases

The rationale for management bonuses and salary increases was that it rewarded managers who met their goals. Unfortunately, it created a lot of ill-feeling among workers who felt that their manager's bonuses had been paid for by cutting positions and increasing workload. Here is a partial list of the bonuses.

We Are Reorganized

From Silo to Ranch House: The organization was criticized for being "top-down", with information going from management to lineworker, but in no other direction. One solution was to "regionalize" so that now, instead of one large silo, we have a lot of little Ponderosas. Do I think information is flowing any better? No. Here is a chart of before and after.

(to be continued - I'll be back after a short break)

Revised 09/19/99
rufferta@home.com
for CIS 212
Cuyamaca College

*Of course, we all write Scott Adams to let him know what's going on. I bet you thought he made that stuff up.
**I am not going into detail on the things that went wrong. You can read about some of them in the San Diego Union,  and you will probably be reading about some more of them there in the future.

 

General Information:
[Introduction][Definitions]
[What's Wrong With Downsizing, and Privatization?]
[What Can You Do To Protect Your Job?]
[Dirty Tricks][Links][Credits]Next=>
What's Happening Where I Work:
<=Back["Chainsaw"][Reorganization]
[Management Bonuses][1997][1998][1999]
[What I Think About IT Outsourcing]
[Why I Wrote These Pages]
["Ten Little County Workers"]