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  Reorganization: 1995 - 1998

"We trained hard...but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganized. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing -- and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization."
Petronius Arbiter, in 210 B.C.

How One Agency Was Formed
Is It Working?
Will It Succeed?
Another Opinion
I knew we'd been reorganized, I just wasn't sure how. Although our Department gave us training on how the different parts of the Agency fit together in the Northeast District, it had not really included much about how the Northeast District fitted into the rest of County government. I knew who was at the top, and I knew who was at the bottom (me), but what was between was pretty hazy.

When I tried to find current  information I was told that the County phonebook  hadn't been updated since 1995. It took two hours of calling around (during lunch breaks) before I was able to find a 1997-1998 Telephone Directory. I've also been told they aren't going to put out any newer phone books or even update our antique "BD10" system on the dummy terminals because "everyone has access to the LAN". Everyone who? (If I had access to the LAN, I might know what was going on...)


On paper, 1995 San Diego County government looks chaotic. An organization chart in the July 1995 phone book shows The Board of Supervisors, Elected Officials and Courts, Law Enforcement, Civil Service, CAO Staff Offices, Auditor and Controller and County Counsel loosely interconnected at the top of the page, while 24 County Departments are crowded at the bottom of the page sharing a single connection to the CAO's office.


The chart in the 1997-1998  County phone book makes the County appear more organized. The top hierarchy is the same, but what used to be thirty-eight subordinate divisions have been divided into four departments each communicating directly to the CAO.

1999 -

This online chart is a simplified version of the one in the 1997 County phone book.  It looks nice and compact. I don't know about the rest of the County, but here is how they formed one new agency out of separate parts:

Separate agencies in 1995:
  1. In 1995 Health Services was directed by Dr. Robert K. Ross and contained many offices, divisions, and programs. There were five regional Centers.
  2. The Area Agency on Aging was directed by Daniel Laver.
  3. Social Services was directed by Cecil H. Steppe and contained the Adult & Employment Services Bureau and the G.A.I.N. Offices, as well as Children's Services. There were twelve District Operation Division Offices.
  4. Veteran's Affairs appears to have been part of the CAO's Office.
What you see in 1998: In 1998 you see a new Agency, Health & Human Services,  directed by Dr. Robert K. Ross, composed of:
  1. Aging & Independent Services ,
  2. Commission on Children, Youth and Families,
  3. Health Services,
  4. Public Administrator, *
  5. Social Services,
  6. Veterans Service Office.

The idea behind putting these different operations together was that they had common  clients who often used more than one service. Making them one agency makes it easier for customers. There is "No Wrong Door.".

So, how is it working? I can tell you what my own experience is:  I work in one of the District Offices in the Northeast Region of the Family Resources Bureau in the Health and Human Services Agency of the County of San Diego. For many years our office has been staffed with Eligibility Technicians who work with clients needing Medi-Cal, foodstamps, and cash assistance. We have supervisors who were responsible to an Assistant District Chief  and a District Chief.

Now we have a Public Health Nurse on site part of the time,  and a unit of Children's Protective Services social workers. We also have a representative from "Healthy San Diego". The advantages are that we can talk to these people face-to-face if we have questions about their areas of expertise.The Public Health Nurse and the "Healthy San Diego" representative have direct client contact, and  the PHN has given training sessions on topics like "Head Lice to Dead Lice" and "Everything You Wanted To Know About Hepatitis". The social workers have also proved to be an invaluable resource, although I am not sure being with us is a great advantage to them.

There were some negative aspects.Although we all received "Collaborative" training explaining the reorganization,  there are still problems.   There has  been some unhappiness because some of the new people seem to be treated better -- "Why do they have chairs with arms!!"**

Communications is still a problem, and there have been some misunderstandings about roles and jurisdictions because the new staff have different chains of command. I also feel that many of our Program Assistants and Managers have been forced to take over too many different jobs.

Will it succeed? Right now I see management and staff making tremendous efforts to communicate and to make things work. If it doesn't succeed, it won't be for want of trying, and it needs to succeed so that we can serve our clients more efficiently. My primary complaint about the reorganization was the timing.

Another Opinion:
Darla Newman, MSW, did a thesis survey on the goals of "Project Synergy" (reorganizing the Agency). One of her conclusions was that while the re-engineering of the Agency improved service to clients and collaboration, changes were coming too fast for workers to assimilate them, communications about changes was poor, and "no one knows who is in charge."

How About Other Parts of The County?
I've been told that other Agencies are disorganized, but I can't vouch for it.  (The usual litany is"______________is in chaos."). I hope it isn't true.

*The Health and Human Services Web Page Lists Public Administration as part of the Agency, but the Phone Book shows it as belonging to the Community Services Group. The charts we got during Collaborative training only show our regional offices. I'm not sure why Public Administration would be part of our Agency, but I suppose they had to put it somewhere.

**The answer to this was "I guess it makes a difference what part of the Agency you are from." but everyone was eventually offered their own chair-with-arms if they wanted one.
Last updated 09/19/99


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