public policies turn on human resources decisions. The impeachment
of President Johnson thats Andrew, not Lyndon developed out of
a dispute over an employee termination. Americas second
presidential impeachment also involved a personnel matter actually
a personal, personnel matter. The creation of the Department of
Homeland Security was stalled for quite some time around personnel
disputes involving entitlements in the Federal Civil Service.
At the moment,
deep inside the bowels of the various agencies which are going to be
merged into this new department rests an inherent and ironic
What will my
role be in the new department? Will the merger result in staff
reductions or reductions in opportunities for promotions? There are
many HR issues that will define whether this giant merger, or some
might argue hostile takeover, will live up to the promises made in
support of its creation. We all recognize that the stakes are very
integrated and innovative federal internal security organization
that proves able to prevent even one repeat of the September 11
attack will more than justify the public policy decision to create
and fund it.
are key ingredients that help shape the success or failure of any
organizational change in government or business, including the
creation of a new organization, the consolidation of several older
ones, or the elimination of a function.
For one thing,
this is the merger of multiple tribes, which have grown to exist in
separate bureaucratic worlds. Bureaucracies give rise to distinct
tribes with their own power structures, loyalties, rituals, and
probably secret handshakes. The tribes erect defensive screens to
keep out members of other tribes and are always on alert, lest they
be outdone in a budget hearing or in a legislative proposal. There
is an eternal quest for appropriations to fund new equipment (aka,
new toys) and a resistance to voluntarily sacrifice for a larger
bureaucratic tendencies, however, come wrapped around rhetoric about
loyalty and organizational sacrifice. Whether it is internal
competition in a local government for limited additional revenue
between a fire and police department, or between general fund and
special funds such as utility funds or road funds, or whether it
involves one union beating up another union in the quest for a
better labor agreement, the reality is that this anthropologic
notion of tribalism represents the major impediment to effective
It begins at
the individual level where we all want to identify with a particular
group or unit to which we can devote primary loyalty. It may be to a
small work unit or a section, division or department. It begins with
individuals feeling the need to apply for membership.
motivator and the underlying challenge for the leadership of the new
department is to begin the career of a new employee by instilling a
strong and immediate sense of higher-level loyalty. If this is not
done by the organization overtly, forcefully and consistently, the
individual employee will default to a struggle to retain loyalty and
membership in the older tribe.
there will continue to be a Coast Guard and a Secret Service and an
Immigration and Naturalization Service, but the tribalism that
sometimes prevents them from effectively communicating with each
other, sharing information and taking risks for a greater purpose
will not be overcome.
The HR Doctors
recently published article, Precious Moments Lost (available at
www.hrdr.net), speaks to the new-employee orientation as a key
management process. On a super scale, there needs to be a
comprehensive program in the new department focusing on conveying
and valuing the benefits of breaking down tribal barriers by
appealing to the higher loyalties of the new concept shared by all
of the employees in the new department.
in the HR Doctors opinion, should be guardianship. Every employee,
not just the security guards at the front doors, needs to be thought
of as a guardian.
One of the few
tools available to overcome tribalism is the idea of an appeal to a
higher loyalty. However, the appeal will not be successful if it is
regarded as simply another public relations maneuver while
day-to-day agency business rules or restrictions are allowed to
continue. What is needed is an organization-wide unrelenting change
in managerial and supervisory attitudes and practices.
The focus must
be on the higher, commonly shared guardianship concept. A reward and
value system must focus on improving communication of tribal
This is the
same recipe, which will work when agencies share resources and
consolidate in the future. And yes, the pressures are increasing and
the needs are compelling for local governments as well as the
federal government to consolidate, to create consortia between
agencies, to share resources, and for managers to look beyond the
limited vision of narrow loyalties.
How many fire
departments does it take to provide life safety protection in one
county area? There are 24 in the HR Doctors home county. How many
police agencies are needed to effectively combat crime? There are 28
in the HR Doctors home county.
The answer to
these questions is not likely to be one. However, the delivery of
excellent service at the best price is not built around a patchwork
quilt of individual territories and narrow loyalties.
of Homeland Security must initially confront and defeat its own
internal insecurities before it will be a match for al Qaeda or the
other future dangers which will confront our country.
American history, the appeal to a higher loyalty has made the
difference in our unique ability as a nation to come together and
compromise for a common good. This need will be called up many times
in the coming year not only with regard to counter-terrorism but
with regard to growing caseloads, unfunded mandates, and
insufficient revenues. A notion that
my tribe is better than your
tribe is counter to our success. It must give way.
The HR Doctor
wishes you all the best in balancing the tribal loyalties we each
have against that imperative of the common good.
The HR Doctor http://www.hrdr.net/