Director Ness introduces department realignment plan

ITD Director Brian W. Ness announced this week a realignment of the department that will improve customer service, efficiency and accountability, and save a minimum of $1.5 million over the next two years.

The realignment will reduce the layers of management between Ness and the department's front line supervisors from nine to five and give decision-making back to where the work is being done.

"The department has respected, hard-working employees who told me they are capable and willing to do more. But we need to make changes to our layered organizational structure to have fewer people in offices and more people providing front line services such as snowplowing or inspecting construction projects," Ness said.

Within the department's organization, Ness said there are:

  • As many as nine layers of management between the front line workers and the director
  • 62 supervisors who only manage one employee
  • Eleven assistant managers
  • Efforts being duplicated, especially between headquarters and the district offices

"The bottom line is that too many approval steps are required to make decisions. Many employees told me they believe their hands are often tied," Ness said. "The realignment gives our employees their jobs back while at the same time holding them accountable. The best decisions are always made closest to where the job is being done."

The new organization will have:

  • Five layers of supervision
  • Managers supervising on average eight to 10 employees
  • The assistant manager positions eventually phased out
  • Duplication of effort minimized

Ness said the decision to realign the department came after nine months of meeting with employees, elected officials and customers and assessing how the department operates.

Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said he agrees with the direction of the department under Ness' leadership.

"Director Ness understands that the people of Idaho deserve efficiency, accountability and transparency from state government. This is great progress and I commend the director for his efforts to streamline the department's operations, save money and improve service to taxpayers," Otter said.

Idaho Transportation Board Chairman Darrell V Manning said board members have been involved in the realignment discussion and support the new direction.

"We believe it is in the best interests of Idaho citizens to streamline our administrative and decision making processes whenever possible," Manning said.

Phase one of the realignment will start this month with the naming of the executive officers. In the next phase of the reorganization, Ness will require administrators to make further recommendations on how functions and activities can be streamlined to eliminate duplication and improve efficiency. Each administrator will submit a proposed organizational chart and a phase-in plan before the end of the 2011 legislative session.

Many of the changes will occur when the department fills vacancies. As openings occur, the top priority will be to determine if the position could directly work in a front line service position or support those who serve the customers, Ness said. If not, the department will determine whether to move the position somewhere else in the organization or not fill it.

Idaho House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, (R-Star), said while he has criticized the department in the past, he is encouraged and supportive of its new direction.

"I believe through the director's new initiatives the department is becoming more performance driven, transparent and accountable," Moyle said. "I look forward to working with the department in the future."

Idaho Senate Transportation Committee Chairman John McGee, (R-Caldwell), said communication between the department and legislators is improving.

"This action is indicative of other actions that the department has taken under the leadership of director Ness," McGee said. "I am pleased ITD continues to head in the right direction."

Idaho House Transportation and Defense Committee Chairman JoAn Wood, (R-Rigby), said the department's realignment is demonstrating that leaders are listening to legislators' concerns.

"The director is focusing on what is important - improving service at the local level and keeping our pavements and bridges in good condition," Wood said. "His emphasis on performance management will show us how the money is invested and the improvements it made."

Lt. Governor Brad Little said the realignment sends an important message.

"The Governor's Task Force on Modernizing Transportation Funding will soon make its recommendations for Idaho’s future," Little said. "It is imperative the 15 members are confident ITD is using its funding as prudently as possible."

A member of the task force and a former chairman of the transportation board agrees.

"When Dwight Bower was director, accountability and efficiency were cornerstones of ITD's operations," Senator Chuck Winder, (R-Boise), said. "It is great to see ITD's current director, Brian Ness, making these very beneficial changes."

Published 11-5-2010