Surly Surveyor Has to Go


avidson's handling of the management survey has been less than impressive. Picking Pitcher, freshly arrived from another department, was his predecessor's mistake. (How were Pitcher's technical ability and people skills for the survey at the other department? Would the survey lead to lessons learned for this one?) But the warning signs were there for Davidson in Pitcher's lack of interest in his new agency's history and culture and his condescending attitude toward the agency's managers.

Davidson was now responsible for the team leader, and he should have recognized how sensitive managers are to surveys of this nature. If indeed the "reinvention" of government had any merit at its inception, a federal manager such as Davidson ought to have understood its political dimensions.

On the plus side, the team had been given marching orders and the pre-survey meetings had been conducted appropriately. And Pitcher did give every indication prior to the survey that he would be objective and sensitive to the affected managers' feelings. Nonetheless, the fact that a week passed before Davidson received his first feedback of any kind and that it was negative should have set off alarm bells.

Though he confronted Pitcher and gently chided him, Davidson did nothing else for two more weeks until the second complaint came in. Only then did Davidson poll the subjects of Pitcher's survey and discover the true extent of the damage being wrought by Pitcher and his team. All this could have been avoided had Davidson kept abreast of what the team was doing. He could have accomplished this easily by calling some of the managers who'd been visited by the team or, even better, placing on the team a political commissar, personally loyal to him and charged with regularly reporting back what was going on.

Now what? Obviously the survey has to go on in order to satisfy the thirst to reinvent. But now we have nervous and upset managers who quite understandably were discomfited by the team's abrasive behavior and the assumption that the existing structure and processes were unsound.

Davidson should retire, since he's responsible for the mess. At the very least, he should pitch Pitcher.

Abrasive, arrogant, smugly superior and tactless, Pitcher needs to be sacrificed so that the survey can proceed in a less hostile environment. Pitcher has clearly shown his predisposition to denigrate the existing organization, and his mewling about the prima donna managers reflexively disinclined to change should cement his fate.

In Pitcher's place, Davidson should appoint someone with proven people skills to complement the technical ability needed to conduct a survey. If the new leader isn't Davidson's own creature, someone who is should also be added to the team.

Apologies to Dove, Canseco and the others are also in order, for, if candor and cooperation are expected of them, they must believe that the results of the survey have not been preordained and that their input will be factored in. In addition, Davidson needs to give the team better marching orders on structure, feedback and, above all, sensitivity.

Davidson is in a tough spot. In an organization already demoralized by downsizing and change for change's sake, he must walk the line between further exacerbating the situation and appearing to do nothing. The survey has to be done, and its importance for the future of the agency and its people can't be exaggerated. Nonetheless, continued failure to control the process and thus to ensure the survey's success will only further erode Davidson's credibility. Pitcher has now become part of the problem and has to go.

William N. Rudman is an attorney specializing in federal employment law. He retired from federal service in 1993 as deputy undersecretary of Defense and director of the Defense Technology Security Administration. In a career of more than 26 years, including 22 as a criminal investigator, he held every management position from first-line supervisor to administrator of an agency.

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