Friday, November 9, 2018

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Opportunity knocking?

Is opportunity knocking on Windham’s door? Quite possible. First of all, I have been unable to determine if the town manager was fired, resigned, or …. something. Should it be this fuzzy? I believe the town manager was degraded publicly and hope the town council might consider a slightly different approach to the treatment of our employees. They could hit the re-set button and show some real leadership.  But will they?  Employees certainly deserve it, as do the residents.

I have read the so called “Opus” report dated September 17, 2018. I found nothing surprising.  In fact, most of the deficiencies identified have been common knowledge for years and are issues that any organization has. I’m not entirely sure why we needed two studies to inform us of problems that should have been obvious. Ah, that’s one of the problems; management didn’t recognize the problems and should have. As a result, no corrections were made. However, I saw no problems that deserved a dismissal, resignation or anything similar. 

I also noticed something significant in the report; that everyone lent a hand in the problems; and as such everyone will be part of the solution. A critical component of any solution will be the chain of command. All employees need to know and understand this. Everyone, employees, and the town council need to know their role. Employees that are residents of Windham need to understand that they are employees when discussing town matters. Just these couple of items will go a long way in eliminating many of the issues identified in the report.

In the search for a new town manager, the council could appoint a hiring committee. This committee might include representatives of stakeholders such as councilors, department managers, rank and file employees and residents of the town. The committee needs to be diverse, but not too large. They need to discuss what is desired of a town manager. That is, what traits, personality, management style, track record, etc. The members need to be honest, feel safe in stating opinions, reflective, no personal agendas, and of the utmost importance is to remember that it isn’t about any individual but about what is good for the town and its residents.

So, as we move forward from this ugly chapter is our history, I would like to point out a couple of things, that to some may be obvious, but to some maybe not:  Any organization has a culture.  That culture is on display every day. It is evident when talking with employees, attempting to solve problems, etc. That culture is set by leadership. Leadership that should come from the town council, town manager, and department managers. The town leadership needs to be more transparent. I’ve noted that we as a town have lots of secrets. They need to stop. They can reveal much more than they do. Everything is not a personnel matter or a negotiation. They need to rid themselves of their personal agendas. Employees need to have goals.  Supervisors need to work with their subordinates to set realistic, yet challenging goals. Most employees will perform to expectations when known. If there are no clear goals for employees, that is exactly how they will perform. 

It will take some time to repair the damage done, particularly with relationships. It is difficult to trust again; but they must. The Opus report is a good place to start as we begin the next chapter is our history.

Jeffrey M. Pierce

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