Director Ness reflects on department's progress in 2010

A cornerstone in ITD’s effort to establish credibility is the organizational realignment that Ness announced in early November. It will evolve over the next 12 months as ITD turns the corner to focus on accountability

The dawn of a new decade also brought the dawn of a new era at the transportation department in January 2010. Brian Ness began his tenure at ITD the same day the 2010 Legislative session opened, and it has been a non-stop journey since day one, he explains.

Establishing credibility was the focus throughout the year, beginning with presentations to the Legislature, meetings with ITD employees throughout the state, the unveiling of a new department goal and vision elements, and first steps toward organizational realignment.

The driving force is the goal to become the best transportation in the country, the director explains.

Ness said ITD’s progress in that quest will be measured in two ways – when other transportation departments turn to ITD as an example of excellence and when other Idaho departments recognize ITD as the “go-to” agency.

“Other state agencies are beginning to look at ITD as an example. I couldn’t have done that by myself; it took employees working together doing the right things. We have made major strides toward becoming the best in the first year.”

“Year one was about building credibility, and we worked closely to do that with the governor and Legislature. I think we did a good job establishing ourselves as one of the state’s lead agencies.”

Ness initiated a new communications tool, Direct from the Director, in January to explain his leadership style, his priorities and his vision for ITD. In March, he began elaborating on the goal to become the best in the nation with a series of messages that covered seven vision elements:

1. ITD strives to continually get better with the goal of being the best transportation department in the country.
2. ITD is transparent, accountable and delivers on its promises.
3. ITD seeks to be more effective and to save costs through increased efficiencies.
4. ITD provides extraordinary customer service.
5. ITD uses partnerships effectively.
6. ITD values teamwork and uses it as a tool to improve.
7. ITD places a high value on its employees and their development.

“I made it a personal commitment to meet nearly every ITD employee in every part of the state early this year,” the director said. “The meetings allowed me to visit with employees in their work place and view first-hand the work they do. I was very impressed by the reception I received and by the dedication I saw.

“It was so successful that I will return in 2011.

“I was pleased to find that in meeting with employees how many have embraced our goal of being the best in the country.”

During his statewide visits, Ness found that most employees were willing to do even more for the citizens of Idaho, but he also detected a frustration among employees who felt limited by administrative process.

He determined to “give them their jobs back” and allow decisions to be made closer to where the work takes place. Both became fundamental to realignment announced in the fall that will flatten the organization and reduce the number of reporting levels.

A cornerstone in ITD’s effort to establish credibility is the organizational realignment that Ness announced in early November. It will evolve over the next 12 months as ITD turns the corner to focus on accountability.

Progress already made and steps to be taken are designed to take the department to new levels of credibility, accountability and customer service.

“This is about giving employees their job back.

“This is about putting more people on the front line.

“This is about enhancing our partnerships as we put decision-making closer to where the work is being done.

“This is about increased efficiency as we reduce layers of bureaucracy.

“This is about increased accountability, because we will not allow our organizational structure to stand in the way of accomplishing our goal.”

The department will build on realignment in the coming year by extending credibility and accountability from the organizational level to the personal level, incorporating those ideals in employee performance reviews. New elements will be added to reviews that measure performance by each of three standards: accountability, customer service and teamwork (ACT).

“We have developed performance measures for the organization that the board will review on a monthly basis. Those measures will be on a very high level. But I expect those high-level measures to cascade down to all levels of personnel work. At the same time, those personal performance measures will feed back into the high-level measures.”

The new ACT focus areas and personnel measures will assure that everyone is going the same direction and that individual performance will help determine the performance of the department, Ness said.

“Those measurements will be used as a tool to ensure that we continue to get better.”

Published 1-7-2011