The PennDOT and IUP Partnership: A Personal History -II

Part II – Business Process Re-Engineering and the District-Based Teams

By the spring of 1997, some of the weaknesses of the BEQ-based QP teams were beginning to show.  As noted above, there was difficulty in scheduling for scoping field views. The lack of communication with Project Managers and Environmental Managers limited trust.  The QPs ability to have input into the creation of design scopes of work was also constrained, as was the review of consultants doing the work prior to their being selected for a consulting contract.  Furthermore, the Adverse Interest Act put constraints on the types of projects our consultants could oversee.  By contrast Jamie McIntyre could cut through those problems and work much more closely with the Environmental Unit and Project Managers.  She was in the District, and as a creature of the District, was de facto part of the team.  The archaeology portion of Section 106 worked better in District 4-0 than elsewhere.

That spring, the Department rolled out a large initiative under the initials EMS (Engineering Management System), which suggested that each work unit re-engineer itself to improve productivity and to try to work the golden triangle of Faster, Betters, and Cheaper.  Our kick-off meeting was held April 11, 1997. The goals of our group were to:

  • Save the Districts time for smaller projects
  • Better value for our money
  • Take the guess work out
  • Preserve PA historic resources
  • Streamline the process
  • Cut design time researching historic resources
  • Improve predictability

Our cultural resources team had some advantages coming into this effort, as we had a newly minted PA, and established a team-based approach to Section 106, pairing above-ground specialists with below-ground specialists.  The re-engineering effort became a lab for additional ideas and suggested process improvements.

Although the final EMS recommendations were far-ranging and ambitious, the most important recommendation was to solidify staffing for the QPs.  Five options were developed, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Hire Qualified Professionals– In this scenario, all needed QPs would be hired by PennDOT.  This was clearly the cheapest option from a salary perspective. All QPs could perform all needed duties, including preparing and review proposals, and had the highest potential for the long-term.  The disadvantages were that the existing civil service classifications were not a good fit (see museum curators, above), the salary range might not attract the best candidates, and most importantly, it would require shifting complement within PennDOT.  Shifting complement is a kind restatement of stealing vacancies from other units. It doesn’t make you popular, either.

Use consultants– We had been using consultants and in this option, we would continue to do so, filling all needed positions.  We would be able to specify the skill levels we needed, and presumably we could get them on task faster. Also, as our needs changed, we could flexibly add or subtract consultants.  On the downside, it was the most expensive option (overhead and profit could multiply salaries by 2.5x), did not address the issue with the Adverse Interest Act, and consultants could not perform all of the needed duties, such as reviewing contract proposals.  In addition, there was a concern that consultants generally like to please their clients (us) and might make findings that unduly favor PennDOT, rather than making cold objective decisions.

Hire PHMC staff– In this option, we would enter into an interagency agreement with the SHPO to have them hire and dedicate staff to PennDOT projects.  Some states already used this model.  The SHPO could use their own PHMC classifications; it would not burden PennDOT complement; and, there was the potential for an instant sign-off from the field.  Unfortunately, this option would not address a key Programmatic Agreement goal of increasing delegation of responsibility to the Department, instead regressing back to the old methods of pressing the SHPO for sign-off.

Hire University CRM Staff– Several DOTs had already established partnerships with universities, although in each case it was to provide field archaeological studies.  Using a university in a slightly different way to provide QPs was conceivable, although we were more likely to find archaeologists than architectural historians on staff. This also had the potential to be a long-standing arrangement with the further advantage that being independent of both PennDOT and the SHPO, QPs could make independent judgments.  The question was whether there were any universities in Pennsylvania that would be in a position to enter into such an arrangement.

Retrain PennDOT Staff– This final option would have existing PennDOT staff trained as QPs.  While it would support the central EMS concept of doing our own work, and did not require additional complement, it would have required those individuals to undertake a 3-5 year program of education and training to meet the Secretary of Interior Standards for professional archaeologist and architectural historian that the PA called for.  Furthermore, it was suspected if we did retrain and delegate staff (probably not engineers) as QPs, they would most likely leave the Department for better paying jobs elsewhere, plying their newly acquired specialies.

At a July 23, 1997 presentation of our EMS Re-engineering to upper management at PennDOT, we received approval to move forward with the option to hire university CRM Staff.

Next:Part III – And Away We Go: The First IUP Contract (1999-2002)

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