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Monday, March 3, 2008

More executive "coaching" at PDC

Is the Portland Development Commission (PDC) "sick"?

Last week the commissioners got a report from some high-priced consultants who were called in nearly two years ago to address diversity issues at the agency, but quickly discovered that the "organizational health" problems ran deeper than that. Since that time, the consultants provided "guidance, counsel and coaching" to Bruce Warner, the executive director of PDC, and other members of the executive team on matters like hiring, resolving conflicts, "leadership, team building, diversity and building cultural competence." The consultants also "[p]rovided facilitated conversations between individual employees and managers when disagreements were unsolvable"; and they "[a]ssisted PDC’s housing bureau and the City of Portland’s Bureau of Housing through a conflict situation" so that "the two groups were able to establish an understanding of what they could agree upon and to acknowledge areas of disagreement." (They also helped the PDC "find" another consulting firm, CH2A of Harold Williams fame, to work with minority groups, and worked with a third group of PDC consultants, an unnamed public relations outfit, as well.)

"Executive coaching" has become a real symbol of dysfunction, not only at the PDC (where it a well established tradition) but in other city bureaus as well. Why do the top executives at an outfit like PDC need all this "coaching"? At the salaries they make, shouldn't they already be capable of doing the jobs they were hired to do?

One of the "coaches'" parting remarks is particularly troubling: "Due to the nature of change, being in the public eye, it still appears to us that there are so many meetings that we wonder how people are able to 'get the work done' when they are not in meetings." Throw in the chaos created by a new employee union, and it's hard not to conclude that the operation is still a mess. Given that it's been mortgaging the city's future, you would have hoped that this outfit would shape up more quickly than it has, with the departure of the Katz/Goldschmidt people. Ah, well -- perhaps chaos is the nature of the beast.

Comments (8)

Instead of consultants and caoching we need outside audits.

Then we'll need more jail space for those now getting the coaching.

Hey Bruce, how big is your lavish retirement anyway?

A few thoughts on this:

1) Outside consultants, though practically wasteful, are used as a form of CYA for organizations these days. If there's a lawsuit, management can point to all the counseling and diversity training to show that the organization discourages behavior to the contrary. This may or not be the case in reality, but that's the gig. This "diversity training" I know is something that happens throughout all city departments. From what I hear, these classes are popular changes of routine for city employees, but if they don't see it in management example, it probably doesn't get taken to heart.

2) Such meetings may just be a form of padding the work days at PDC. If these guys got their jobs through cronyism and/or are practicing cronyism at the PDC, then much of the actual analysis and debate that would be required to do the work of the PDC is unnecessary, because the outcome of development projects is largely predetermined. This helps explain the phenomenon of what some economists refer to as "non-business" meetings and trips.

3) The original post insinuates that there is a level of incompetence that necessitates this kind of consulting. I definitely agree. However, that conclusion seems to support the assumption that some amount of cronyism exists in the PDC, or how did these guys get their jobs in the first place?

Let's not forget or understate the volume of lovely publications the busy staff produces for absolutely no one to ever use fopr anything productive.

Same goes for the CoP planning department, Metro, TriMet, and the Port of Portland.

It's amazing the amount of uselss crap they produce in thick living color glossies.

Why doesn't Mr. Warner focus instead on "performance" and "accountability" and "unity"?

This isn't pc, but there are a lot of underqualified "diverse" employees at PDC. There's the *** ec.dev. guy who hasn't russled up a single biotech job. The *** affordable housing woman who can't read. The *** manager who doesn't speak English. Our taxes at work.

The idea that Warner would ever walk through the cubicles and offices at the PDC and take a gander at what is being produced on any given day is one that has likely never occured to him.

His job is to completely BS along an agency's existence in order to serve as n employment, votes and enrichment of friends center.

I can guarantee there's probably least 50 people in that building who are not providing any public benefit or service in exchange for their compensation.

And Warner knows it.

But then so does Sam Adams et al.

Tonight, through a remarkable coincidence, I was clicking through cable channels, when I stumbled into the playback of last Wednesday's PDC meeting -- and I joined the playback exactly when this report was just starting.

The consultant, Hanamura, is a genuinely impressive man. I'm sure he earned his money. But why do we need to keep hiring his firm? Maybe we just ought to make him executive director of the PDC -- or mayor of Portland, for that matter.

Commissioner Sal Kadri also caught the sentence I did about all the meetings. Somehow I get the impression that he and I think alike about some important things...

Your right, Jack, Kadri does ask some inquisitive questions. We need more, and we need more PDC Commissioners asking more probing questions.

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