Parks and Recreation - April 2011 - (Page 26)
Who, What, Where & hoW around the Parks
LE A D E RS H I P E XC HA N G E
Secrets of Farmers and vikings (cont.)
It’s all about cross-training and prioritizing direct-service
by randolph P. Ferris
additional requirements the contractor must employ to receive the project contract to construct the playground on land the agency already owns. Some additional education of our patrons can help to explain why these things cost more when governments do them, but taxpayers still may refuse to pay the higher prices. If cuts are to be made, then retention priorities need to focus on direct-service providers. Viking-type scenarios worked because of cross-training and all hands doing all things. Farmers who succeed do so by pushing resources into outcomes, not lateral functions. Yes, some tracking and documenting is needed, but not by exclusive specialists. Our own country’s U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets, use a similar hierarchy when mobilizing. Team function responsibilities are assigned to specific members, but each member must cross-train in two other team functions, so that if needed, all services are delivered even if team members are lost or incapacitated. “Silo” effects of sections within a department performing similar functions, or employing staff as specialists who represent the function of another section of a department, are also large consumers of resources. These are often either overlooked as “the way things have always been,” or defended by middle management, which is reluctant to give up the luxury of that exclusive asset in lieu of returning to the dependence on the original section performing their function for them. Common examples are human
have enjoyed the forum published in the September and October 2010 “Kiosk” section of Parks & Recreation. Comparing parks and recreation agencies to Vikings and farmers brings a new light to our situations. Both articles, and those that followed in subsequent months, have overlooked one of the main reasons both farmer- and Vikingstyle management structures were and are successful: Everyone pitches in. All members of the organization are direct-service providers, and all are cross-trained to replace other members of their team should they not be available. If one Viking falls in battle, no extensive search for a replacement is necessary. Another Viking does the job. Farmers have long epitomized the “jack of all trades, master of none” stereotype, where all members of the team can do whatever is needed at any given time. Parks and recreation agencies have expanded their support and specialist classifications for a variety of reasons over the years; some by mandate by their governmental structure to increase oversight and administrative compliance, others for other reasons. This has resulted in large headquarters staff levels and new departments that oversee functions such as revenue collection and tracking patron usage. While these endeavors certainly have value and merit, they are not direct-service providers. Taxpayers hear that more money is needed to fix park facilities and build more playgrounds. They accept the cost of the playground, but are mostly unaware of the landscape architect and the purchasing contract specialist and the
resources specialists assigned to larger sections of departments, even though a separate human resources section exists to perform these tasks. Other functions often duplicated are marketing/communications, safety/security, and information technology. My point boils down to one simple phrase: When cutting department resources becomes unavoidable, the priorities must go to keeping the direct-service providers who do the job that the department was created to perform in the first place.
R andolph p. FeRRis, CpRp, is principal of the parks consulting firm APIFOG Management & Consulting in Colfax, North Carolina. He is a former state park superintendent and recreation manager in Texas.
26 Parks & Recreation A p r i l 2 0 1 1 w w w . N R P A . O R G
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Parks and Recreation - April 2011
Parks and Recreation - April 2011
Rethinking the Playground
Women in the Parks and Recreation Field: Are the Times Changing?
Nrpa in Action
Index to Advertisers
Green Parks, Green Communities Supplement
2011 Congress Preview Insert
Parks and Recreation - April 2011