Workshop teaches leadership to think outside the box
February 11, 2009
USAG-RED CLOUD - The Civilian leadership on USAG-RC was treated to an unusual workshop Jan. 30 in Red Cloud's Mitchell's Club from Fred Meurer, Monterey, Calif. city manager. The unique challenges he faced while manager found him well prepared because of the challenges he faced as a garrison commander during his tenure with the Army.
His experience includes being a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer, executive officer for the 8th Army engineers, Fort Ord Director of Engineering and Housing, a City Public Works director and city manager. The biggest share of his message was community collaboration and creative examination of the possible.
"My whole purpose in life, as the city manager in Monterey, is to beat the status quo," Meurer said. "I absolutely refuse to let the status quo beat me. I encourage you to take on the same attitude."
Meurer pointed out Red Cloud has similar commonality of interests as he did as city manager. For city managers objectives, especially since he needed to keep the Army fort in town, were to serve their citizens (which also included military members), be cost effective and keep their base open. The installation commander objectives are to serve Soldiers and Families, be cost effective and to accomplish operational missions.
He also pointed out the differences city managers have in comparison with garrison commanders; namely, time horizons, public process, public theater, one boss versus five, seven, or more, regionalization and level of oversight.
A major resource for solving situations faced by both the garrison commander and city managers is to revise their thinking about joint endeavors with only other Department of Defense entities to include the community where they exist.
When cutting budgets and money gets tight, Meurer relies on his Public Affairs personnel and their ability to get the word out to the workplace, which is vital to understanding the process.
"My public affairs and community outreach person is with me continually," Meurer said. "Every discussion I have, with my staff, or with the public, my PAO is with me to make sure the public understands what I have to say and making sure they are there to help the staff understand how to say what they need to say."
How to get feedback from customers and those affected by actions taken on services is vital, Meurer explained. For him, attaching customer surveys to each work order returned comments at a rate of 15 percent.
"The bottom line is: What you do not measure, you cannot improve," Meurer said.
The lessons learned are: be creative and collaborative, manage facilities as assets, not liabilities, allow local standards to prevail, ask what is to be done, not how.
"Each party must recognize and satisfy the needs of the other," Meurer said. "Do not move your risk to your partner, and respect each other's situation."