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Featuring Joe Turner, Director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department

This interview with Joe Turner, Director of Houston Parks and Recreation Department, was conducted and condensed by Mahogany Johnson.

MMJ: You bring a wealth of experience from the private sector having served in the franchise business arena at the local, state and national level for over 35 years. How did that influence your path?

JT: I think the biggest thing is that all of those businesses were hands-on businesses, and from my perspective they were all customer service businesses. The simple answer is that if we didn’t provide good customer service we didn’t have sales. So that focused my attention on meeting the needs of the customer, which in municipal government is our citizens. At Parks we have to ask ourselves, “How do we meet the citizens' needs?” And that piece of the business is focused on how we manage this department.

At the same time, I spent all of those years maintaining facilities. You can maintain a facility short-term or you can maintain a facility long-term. In that world, we were always worried about the bottom line. There were two reasons for that, one because we needed to be profitable, the second because we had to focus on expansion to encourage younger employees to remain in our work force.

We fought for capital dollars in the franchise business just like we do here at the City of Houston to keep the business expanding. Everyone knows that when you’re not building, you become stagnant. That expansion gave us the ability to show our younger generations of employees an opportunity for upward movement and growth in their own careers. With that said, we were able to get individuals in positions and move them every two to three years through a career path. At that point, we were a big franchise company. We worked with franchisees, who in most cases were already fairly successful business people. We conducted business differently, and were in business not just to run a business, but to satisfy the customer. I still carry that concept today.

When I’m working with all of my citizens, to me they’re franchisees. They have a true vested interest in their park, and we have a vested interest to meet their needs. In the “park business” the department and the public are partners in making the system work. We can always cut the grass and maintain the park, but we need the community to own it and watch it for us because we don’t have the personnel to support that degree of supervision. We have 370 parks, and we need the community to have that same vested interest that we did when we had franchisees in the business, because we are all partners in making the system work.

Maintenance is another very important aspect, as well as being good stewards of the money we’ve been given to manage our facilities long-term. When I say long term, you have to consider the amount of time it takes for park projects to be completed. Our projects take six to eight years, even nine and ten years to complete. Parks are forever, so eight years of forever is a relatively short timeline. It’s just a matter of how you look at doing business, and this is a business. We provide a service to our citizens here in Houston, whether it’s in the park world or in the recreation world, and all of those past experiences have helped us focus.

We’re a customer service driven department. We’re also about image; we run this department as a brand, and we operate from a brand management standpoint, specifically the message that we communicate. But, know that we have no marketing dollars; we depend on the communications department's media outreach efforts. We also limit those requests since we’re not buying time on television. And we are very selective with how we sell stories because the last thing the news office wants is a press release from us every day. We’re very selective on all communications to the media, so that when we do send one, they actually pick it up and read it. We normally sell internally, and we push one big story per month because we know that we have one good shot each month to obtain press on our initiatives, whether it is television, news, etc. We also have a very good working relationship with the press and no problems meeting any potential issues head on, discussing them, and moving forward.

MMJ: I noticed that you are responsible for overseeing a staff of approximately 800 full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees. I’m sure that comes with its fair share of leadership challenges. What have your experiences as the director of such a large staff taught you about leadership?

JT: One of the simple things I did when I came here was greet everybody. I like to tour because it’s more fun in the field than being in the office, and most of the time that’s where you’ll find me. I hate being in the office, but why would I want to be? It’s more enjoyable being out in the field with my staff and our users, the citizens.

When I first took up the position as director, we had an analysis conducted of the department by local nonprofits that comprised 10 or 12 components. And part of the interview was to assess the needs of the department. To that end, we discovered an issue with cutting grass and picking up trash. It didn’t seem that complicated to me, but then it became complicated, because we didn’t have enough equipment. So, the department was being accosted and the employees were made to feel as though they weren’t performing, when in actuality, they didn’t have the tools they needed to perform. So, I supplied my team with equipment and the opportunity to do their job, and we had ongoing discussions about cutting grass and picking up trash that spanned three years. They call it de-littering, I call it trash. Now, everybody understands this philosophy, which is we pick up trash and cut grass, that’s what we do, and I’m proud we do it, because there’s nothing better than a clean, well-manicured park.

I believe technology is how we’re going to be successful. Half of our irrigation systems use a valve with an automatic shut-off that’s engaged. It sends an email to notify us, and we can manage it with a computer. You have to do business that way, and the same goes with many of the functions of our buildings. We have remote access to our air conditioning units. And so we not only manage the facility but also the utilities and the costs. It’s about managing the total asset base, and all my team is a part of that process.

MMJ: How do you get people on your team to live your leadership philosophy/commitment?

JT: My leadership philosophy is pretty simple, in fact, my team made fun of me. I’ve been here ten and a half years and I met with them a couple of weeks before I began, and one of my guys transcribed it all. They conducted a 10 year anniversary for me this past summer. He presented those same notes, which he reread, and the good news is I haven’t changed. What I expressed to him then is still who I am today. I wander; literally, I’m from the era of managing by wandering around. You cannot manage what you don’t know.

Foolishly, I tried to get through my parks, which took about one and a half years. We went through every park, riding most Tuesdays in the afternoons. We conducted a lot of visits and we thanked people for doing their job. So my leadership style is about discovering why you do what you do. I ask a lot of questions, and I don’t say to people that they’ve done something wrong. I just want to know why my employees do what they do and how they do it. I have a standard question that I ask, which is, “What can I do to make your job easier?” Nine times out of ten, it’s something very simple. It’s far less than anything I would’ve offered, and that came from my previous experience in the restaurant business.

For example, when you were trying to satisfy a customer, you didn’t assume you knew what was going to make them happy, you simply asked them. In most cases we gave a lot less than what we probably would’ve given trying to make them happy. So, it’s the same thing with my community center managers. It may be a dumpster or even a foosball table. I look around and I see a multitude of things I want, but you have to ask the person doing the job, what it would take for them be successful.

As a part of my leadership style, I do not like phone calls. I will manage them, but that’s not the way that I do business. Partly, it’s because I like notes and as my team knows, I keep everything to go back and review. Part of the reason for that is so that I can resend the email later and ask for a status update. The flipside is that I am demanding, and I hold people accountable. When you tell me that you’re going to do something, I expect it to be done, and I expect it to be done right.

My team will tell you that I have my own quirks and I deal very closely with our landscape architects, which I moved out of this department and into the General Services Department. And that was done to gain control of the projects, which improves the way we do business. Both the previous director and current director of the General Services Department, Scott Minnix, permitted me to deal with that team closely, and we meet every other week to review every project. It’s for that team to know that I’m not upset with them; I’m upset at the project. I want to know why the project is taking so long and what the issues are. We’ve done some miracle projects here.

Some of my most special projects are those people are unfamiliar with, and that’s okay. We believe parks change neighborhoods and people’s lives. We can do projects that don’t get publicity, but we have the satisfaction of knowing that we’ve changed an entire neighborhood through some project. Like I said, I’m very demanding, and at times I have selective memory loss. I probably can’t give you the name of half of the parks, being that there are so many, but I can tell you what corner they’re on, the streets and the layout. That skill comes from my previous world of building and developing restaurants.

MMJ: It’s been said that when you blame others, you give up the power to change. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in your career to date and how did that experience change or positively impact your career trajectory?

JT: I get frustrated at times, because I don’t like anybody slowing down our progress. I consider us the experts, and I’m not referring to myself, I’m talking about my team. I’m a director, but personally I prefer the title of administrator. In my mind, administrator means to me that I’m not the expert; I have the experts working for me. I actively seek out those individuals who are the experts, and that doesn’t mean that we always agree, but I want them to have total control over running their own departments. I can’t run them all, nor do I want to run them all. When people introduce me, I say, “I’m in charge of compliance.” The flipside of it is that you have to allow your team to be successful. I have my own team. I detest the word executive. Instead, we use the word team. We hold monthly meetings where they are welcome to invite whomever they please. I don’t discourage them from doing that. It exposes me to the second and third level of management that I seldom connect with. I enjoy that because they get the opportunity to hear the messages of our department directly from me.

MMJ: Tell me about a time you realized you had the power to do something meaningful.

JT: I always knew as a restaurant manager that I had the power. In the restaurant industry, you can be successful with a degree or without one. It’s about your own personal drive, how you change lives and how providing service can make somebody happy. That’s why I say that we are in the customer service business. In the restaurant business, I used to say “learn the customer’s name,” personalize the service, especially if the customer frequents the restaurant regularly. Everybody can affect somebody. My team that maintains our parks is our image. We are gauged by grass and trash and the overall appearance of our parks, and by the services we provide and our centers.

During the big layoff in 2011, I cut all the way through my employee chain, even my staff, because I needed the best team that are providing the best services to allow us to function as a department, and successfully manage our brand. Every year, I create my annual budget; and our department is always the last one to present. Last year, I was reminded by Council-member Stephen C. Costello’s team about the last line in my presentation because every year it is always the same - recognition of our department’s employees. Once the presentation was delivered, I said, “Right now it is 98 degrees, and as we sit here in this air conditioned building, let’s thank our teams that are out there every day in this weather for us, because they are the ones that make us successful. We just manage the minutiae.”

MMJ: Is there anything that you would like to share with the City of Houston’s workforce, or something you wish people knew more about you or your department?

JT: What we do is all about partnerships. I work very closely with Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library, and also with Stephen Williams, director for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS). The three of us purposefully collaborate on many projects. We share several facilities and all three of us have the same customers.

MMJ: Any “guilty pleasures” you are willing to admit to and share?

JT: I am a coffee fiend and I love sweets, especially Starburst! We worked with the Mars family in my previous world, so we had candy galore. Another one of my pleasures is enjoying my two active grandsons. The little one told me the other day that I was silly, so I own that as my claim to fame! I love them and they’re going to know that their grandparents love them and that they’re protected.

Lastly, I have a 29 Ford Model A that I ride in with the boys. They don’t realize how cool it is now, but they will one day.

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The Learning and Development Center Announces the Commencement of the Ask the Expert Panel Series

Ask the Expert Panel Series is a unique organizational development (OD) intervention to address concerns presented by middle and senior-level managers from the 2014-2015 Leadership Institute Program (LIP)


Houston, TXMay 19, 2015—The Learning and Development Center's Organization Development (OD) and Auxiliary Service team hosted its first session of the seven part Ask the Expert Panel Series entitled, "Right Person, Wrong Job." The panel featured Harry Hayes, Chief Operations Officer and Director of the Solid Waste Management Department, Mario C. Diaz, Director of Aviation for the Houston Airport System, Viveca Sonberg, Assistant Director of Management Support Section for the Public Works and Engineering Department, and Julie Landry, Executive Recruiter of the Human Resources Department.

The panel discussion, which was complimentary and open to all City of Houston employees, took place Tuesday May 19, at 1:00 p.m. at the Learning and Development Center (4501 Leeland Street, Houston, TX).

All panelists stressed the importance of providing employees opportunities to develop their knowledge and skill, and agreed that a strong support network is critical to the success of every employee. "Set clear objectives and think through what must be done, ensure that there is a cultural fit and a clear understanding of the role. If you make the mistake of hiring the wrong person for the job, own up to your mistake and rectify it immediately. Do not leave someone in a position where they don't belong," said Director Diaz.

Taking the floor, Director Hayes noted the importance of this discussion, particularly peer-to-peer introductions, and the identification of skill sets. "It is imperative that the successor is capable of taking the organization to the next level," said Mr. Hayes.

Assistant Director Sonberg, offered solutions to mitigating barriers to success. "Then there are times when work evolves. For example, at the introduction of new technology and the re-engineering of a position. These are times when training and education are necessary to keep an individual successful. Nevertheless, consider whether or not changes to the scope of work require a reclassification. Perhaps, it is pervasive to the industry," said Ms. Sonberg

Executive Recruiter Julie Landry, highlighted a number of factors that should be considered as a part of the decision making process, addressing: recruiting standards, interviewing methods, onboarding and cultural acclimation. “Some hiring managers are looking for the perfect person, but we all know unicorns do not exist. Be honest in your search and know that you will not always get it right,” said Ms. Landry

"Each of us has a unique blend of knowledge, skills and abilities that compliment a specific job. As managers and supervisors, it is important to make certain that the people we select for positions actually “fit” the work they are hired or promoted to do," said Marie Stephens, Moderator and Senior Staff Analyst for the OD and Auxiliary Service team of the Learning and Development Center.

The closing remarks were delivered by Jane E. Cheeks, Deputy Director (Chief of HR Operations) of the Human Resources Department, who encouraged participants to develop their people, look inward and give their employees every opportunity to succeed.

About the Learning and Development Center

The Learning and Development Center (LDC) is a strategic development and employee performance improvement organization that offers comprehensive training solutions that significantly affect performance and institutional outcomes. The LDC’s consultancy is comprised of an experienced team of professionals with the knowledge and capabilities to design and implement strategies that help our clients’ achieve their goals. The LDC’s primary focus is to provide transformational learning programs that enhance the skills, job competencies, and improve performance and overall satisfaction for the City of Houston's workforce.

For more information, please visit the LDC website at


Mahogany Johnson


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The City of Houston Announces Sixteen New Graduates from the Learning and Development Center’s (LDC) City Accreditation Program for Supervisors (CAPS)

CAPS is a citywide, middle management multi-track program consisting of 18 sessions designed to assist supervisor competencies in managing various circumstances regarding employee workday considerations and performance


Houston, TXMay 14, 2015—The City of Houston's Learning and Development Center announces that 16 City employees have successfully completed the City Accreditation Program for Supervisors (CAPS). The graduation ceremony took place on Thursday, May 14, 2015, at 1:30 p.m. at the Learning and Development Center (4501 Leeland Street, Houston, TX). The 16 graduates completed 18 sessions over the course of seven weeks. Scott Minnix, Director of the General Services Department, spoke at the ceremony where he discussed the key to leading healthy, fulfilling work lives through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. The employee address was delivered by Tanya Tyler of the Public Works and Engineering Department (PWE).

Event photos and additional information about the graduation can be found on the LDC’s website at

About the Learning and Development Center

The Learning and Development Center (LDC) is a strategic development and employee performance improvement organization that offers comprehensive training solutions that significantly affect performance and institutional outcomes. The LDC’s consultancy is comprised of an experienced team of professionals with the knowledge and capabilities to design and implement strategies that help our clients’ achieve their goals. The LDC’s primary focus is to provide transformational learning programs that enhance the skills, job competencies, and improve performance and overall satisfaction for the City of Houston's workforce.

For more information, please visit the LDC website at


Mahogany Johnson


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Dr. Bev Youtube.mp4

Discover the ins and outs of applying for grants and federal funding from Author and Consultant, Dr. Beverly “Dr. Dev.” Browning!

Dr. Beverly Browning has been consulting with municipalities and nonprofit organizations for over four decades. This all day training will give insight on how she has won over $400 million for her clients; $46 million for eCivis clients since 2012. She has authored 41 grant-related publications, including five editions of Grant Writing for Dummies, Grant Writing for Educators, How to Become a Grant Writing Consultant, Perfect Phrases for Writing Grant Proposals, and Perfect Phrases for Fundraising.

Join us at the Learning & Development Center

Wednesday, May 27th, 9am-4pm

4501 Leeland St

Houston, TX

This exclusive offer is valued at $299, but we have secured a discounted price of $199 per registrant!

  • Limited slots are available
  • Purchase orders may be used to reserve your slot

Please contact Nickea Bradley at by Thursday, May 21, 2015 to register for this event.

Co-sponsored by the City of Houston and eCivis, our grant research database offering grant opportunities from Federal, State, local, and private organizations.

*This event will take place in room 121

Grant Writing Workshop | To download a printer-friendly version of this flyer, click on the following link:

Employee Learning Spotlight

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Featuring Angela Rasheed-Stephens, Human Resources Manager for the City of Houston

MMJ: What is your role at the Houston Airport System (HAS)?

ARS: HR Manager

MMJ: Why did you choose to work for the City of Houston?

ARS: The choice to work for the City of Houston was to learn how government operates and understand how doing what I love, HR, could provide real solutions to the local community by responding to their needs and making a difference.

MMJ: In your opinion, what is the Houston Airport System’s approach to learning and development, and how does this add to the ongoing discussion about the role of education in the development of City employees?

ARS: I am stationed at the Houston Airport System, but I am an employee of the Human Resources Department. My opinion of Human Resources’ approach to Learning & Development is strategically planning talent. This adds to the ongoing discussion about the role of education in the development of City employees by understanding the needs of the employees as well as the organization. Our organization is determined to develop the needs of individuals, team and departments. Understanding that adults learn in different ways, we have fostered programs that promote learning and provide resources to encourage day-to-day learning with colleagues. Finally, we focus on strategies that use work assignments to build skills and add depth to the workforce.

MMJ: Who do you think influenced your path to success?

ARS: My path to success was influenced by past leaders who mentored, coached and counseled me. These leaders challenged me in ways I never imaged; supported me when I needed development and most importantly they believed in me even when I did not believe in myself.

MMJ: What advice would you give to recent new hires?

ARS: Learn as much as you can and do not be afraid to challenge yourself to go beyond what you think you can do. Understand this is not a job, it is an opportunity for you to share your knowledge with others, learn new things and shape the future of the City of Houston.

MMJ: What is your favorite quote?

ARS: “Never let anyone’s issues become your issues,” and "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."-Maya Angelou

MMJ: If you could be anyone from any time period who would it be and why?

ARS: I would be Maya Angelou because she was a phenomenal woman. She taught me to find my voice no matter how hard the struggle; I have learned to embrace my fears, challenge myself and love everyone with the love of GOD.


Become a Learning and Development Center (LDC) Adjunct Instructor

We're expanding our instructor force to meet the growing demand for our learning programs.

The LDC is seeking third-party support on matters related to the Center for Excellence's quality of professional education programs offered as part of our newly developed course curriculum. This information is also designed to help your Learning and Development Center more effectively serve you to ensure that all requirements for course instruction have been met prior to the start of class.

Our Awesome Courses:

Come Partner with Us:

Turn your technical expertise, on-the-job experience and great communications skills into a rewarding volunteer training opportunity.


Monday - Friday

8AM - 5PM

Please complete the following form and provide as much of the information as possible.

Upcoming Industry Webinars & Local Events

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BEST Webcast Series: TouchPoint Support Services

Growing Your Supervisors Into Great Leaders

In this webcast, you will learn how developing your supervisor-level associates will help your company achieve its business objectives and build a strong bench of qualified candidates for future management openings. Sharolyn and Jessi will tell you how they focused on their supervisors and developed training for their unique needs. By developing this level of associates, you’ll see increased associate engagement and reduced turnover.

During this webcast, you will learn:

  • common causes for why supervisors may fail in their new roles
  • why focusing on supervisors benefits your company
  • how to ensure that you are building a strong bench of qualified managers from your supervisor pool.

Topic: BEST Webcast Series: TouchPoint Support Services

Date: Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Time: 2:00 p.m. ET


About the Speaker(s)

Jessi Moffitt, Director of Marketing, Communications, and Training, TouchPoint Support Services

Jessi Moffitt is the director of marketing, communications, and training at TouchPoint Support Services. Her background is in the healthcare industry, with a focus on improving the overall experience for her customers, patients, and residents. Jessi has a passion for creating training that feels effortless and can be integrated into daily work tasks. Her work has been recognized with multiple awards, including several ATD BEST Awards.

Sharolyn Balsley, Director of Customer Experience, TouchPoint Support Services

Sharolyn Balsley joined TouchPoint Support Services in 2011 and is currently the director of customer experience. She holds a bachelor of science from Iowa State University and a master of science from Middle Tennessee State University. She has more than 25 years of experience in the healthcare field and support services arena and describes herself as a lifelong learner. She has a passion for the frontline associate and enjoys mentoring, training, growing, and developing others.

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Bring Agile Planning to the Whole Organization

Most organizations today say they practice agile methods. But probing reveals that agility typically begins and ends with software engineering teams. It is rare for agile methods to be used more broadly in other areas, such as finance or HR. Yet it is in these infrastructure disciplines that agility must take root.

Agile processes can be used and have great benefits in far more than just software development, including in how organizations plan, develop their strategies, refine their budgets, and make decisions. Agility provides speed, flexibility, continuous learning, and improvement; it provides resilience in how organizations make decisions.

On May 27, in a live Harvard Business Review webinar, lean evangelist Jeff Gothelf will describe how agile planning can be applied far beyond software development to all aspects of business operations, particularly the finance function.

If your business effectively uses agile planning in software design, but isn't yet using it more broadly, join Jeff Gothelf and HBR on May 27 to discover how agility can improve all aspects of your organization's operations and have an enormous impact on the bottom line.

Topic: Bring Agile Planning to the Whole Organization

Date: Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Time:12:00 p.m. ET


About the Speaker(s)

Jeff Gothelf, Principal, Neo Innovation Author, Public Speaker

Jeff Gothelf is Neo's lean evangelist, spreading the gospel of great team collaboration, product innovation and evidence-based decision making.

Jeff is a speaker and thought leader on the future of user experience design, often teaching workshops or giving talks on building cultures that support teamwork and innovation. Jeff is passionate about advancing the principles that lie at the core of Neo, and often does so on a global scale.

Prior to joining Neo, Jeff lead the UX design teams at TheLadders and Web Trends. Earlier he worked with and lead small teams of software designers at AOL. He is the co-author (with Josh Seiden) of "Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience."

Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy

Peer networks are disrupting everything.

In this era of ubiquitous social and mobile technology, peer networks have emerged. These include networks of connected customers, employees, suppliers, and partners. They are all in direct communication with one another in real time. These peer networks have tremendous influence on purchasing decisions and spending. And peer networks are not a passing fad; they represent the future of business.

Peer networks are also changing the workforce. Employees use peer networks to choose where they work (based on a company's values), when they work, how they work, and the technology they use to work.

These changes in how people communicate and make decisions require a new way of thinking about business. On June 5, in an interactive Harvard Business Review webinar, technology expert Ray Wang, author of Disrupting Digital Business: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy, will describe disruptive digital trends, examine how they are affecting all organizations, and discuss how businesses must think and act differently to capitalize on these trends. Wang will lay out how to master these trends to delight customers with every interaction.

To discover how to create an authentic customer experience in today's P2P economy, join Ray Wang and HBR on June 5.

Topic: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy

Date: Friday, June 5, 2015

Time:12:00 p.m. ET


About the Speaker(s)

R "Ray" Wang, Founder, Chairman, and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research Inc. and author of Disrupting Digital Business: Create an Authentic Experience in the Peer-to-Peer Economy

R “Ray” Wang is the Principal Analyst, Founder, and Chairman of Silicon Valley based Constellation Research, Inc. He’s also the author of the popular business strategy and technology blog “A Software Insider’s Point of View”. With viewership in the 10’s of millions of page views a year, his blog provides insight into how disruptive technologies and new business models such as digital transformation impact brands, enterprises, and organizations. Wang has held executive roles in product, marketing, strategy, and consulting at companies such as Forrester Research, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

His new book Disrupting Digital Business, published by Harvard Business Review Press and globally available in Spring of 2015, provides insights on why 52% of the Fortune 500 have been merged, acquired, gone bankrupt, or fallen off the list since 2000. In fact, this impact of digital disruption is real. However, it’s not the technologies that drive this change. It’s a shift in how new business models are created.

Wang has held executive roles in product, marketing, strategy, and consulting at companies such as Forrester Research, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Personify, and Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is a prominent and dynamic keynote speaker and research analyst working with clients on digital, innovation, business model design, engagement strategies, customer experience, matrix commerce, and big data.

His Silicon Valley research firm, Constellation Research, Inc., advises Global 2000 companies on the future, business strategy, and disruptive technology adoption. Ray is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and well quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Bloomberg, CNBC TV, Reuters, IDG News Service, and other global media outlets. Wang has thrice won the prestigious Institute of Industry Analyst Relations (IIAR) Analyst of the Year Award

About the Learning and Development Center-The Center for Excellence

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At a glance...

The Learning and Development Center (LDC) develops and provides programs designed to empower and enhance employee skills and competencies for improved performance and job satisfaction. Our services also extend to external businesses, organizations, and communities.

Our mission is to build a world-class, responsive and results-oriented workforce by providing the following:

  • Learning that meets critical business goals and needs
  • Lifelong learning opportunities that will prepare employees for life and work in an increasingly technological society

Facility Features

The LDC is a two-story, 54,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility featuring:

  • An auditorium capable of seating 150 with fold-down desktops
  • Instructor computers connected to HD projectors and the Internet
  • 170 available campus parking spaces
  • Break-room area with microwaves and refrigerators
  • Welcoming lobby area
  • Open atrium for al fresco activities

Internal & External Room Rental Request Forms

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Extreme Government Makeover: Increasing Our Capacity to Do More Good

This book reveals the tips, strategies and hiding-in-plain-sight secrets for making government work better. The house of government is broken, and it needs a serious makeover from top to bottom. In his latest book, management expert Ken Miller discusses how the processes of state and local government became so complicated and inefficient - and how to start cleaning up the mess.

With his typical irreverent and funny tone, Ken lays out the simple ways that public-sector leaders can tear down all the twisted, broken parts of government and rebuild it stronger, leaner and better equipped to help citizens. Full of clear, concise tips on increasing government's capacity, Extreme Government Makeover is essential reading for everyone in government, from top-level executives to managers and employees on the front lines.

What you’ll learn in Extreme Government Makeover

  • The one and only thing government needs to focus on to get out of this crisis
  • How government can perform its vital functions 80 percent faster, at less cost and with better quality
  • The DNA of government complexity and how we can genetically modify it
  • How to spot the "moldy" thinking that is making us all sick
  • How to get rid of 40 percent of your agency’s workload
  • How to find the hidden costs of government
  • What the next generation of customers and employees are going to do to your operations
  • Why technology isn’t the answer
  • Most importantly, you’ll learn a new way of seeing the work of government – and a better way to make that work great


“Ken Miller zeroes right in on the real reason why government is broken — and how to fix it. Written with humor and compassion, this book honors the people of government, giving us hope, courage and a thoroughly practical approach for making government work better and cost less.”
Larisa Benson, Director of Performance Audits for Washington State

“The book is laid out in a logical and very readable format that makes you want to have a highlighter handy at all times. His writing style is not just informative, but motivating. You really want to roll up your sleeves and get started, even as you’re reading the book!”
Bill Leighty, former chief of staff to two Virginia governors

“Ken Miller certainly strikes a nerve in this provocative book. Here we sit in legislatures
across the country, trying to find ways to force performance — while he’s turning conventional wisdom upside down and asking us to forge a new path.”
Diana Urban, Connecticut State Representative

Extreme Government Makeover

LDC Tip: Host your very own Extreme Government Makeover workshop to remedy the “kinked pipes” and “mold” of your organization!

Ken Miller describes the main problem with government agencies today to be a lack of capacity. Essentially, there is more demand than capacity to handle the demand. Thus, his 2010 book, Extreme Government Makeover, focuses on applying process improvement techniques to increase capacity, and thereby increase customer satisfaction.

Miller identifies two main problems: “Kinked pipes” and “mold.” Kinked pipes are an analogy to the broken and strung-out systems that are often employed to try to do the good work of government. Mold is an analogy to the pervasive funk and toxic attitudes that surround the kinked pipes. While attacking the mold is necessary, Miller asserts that straightening the systems and processes of government are what will systematically keep the mold from coming back.

The major failure, affectionately called “mold,” comes from a misplaced emphasis on trying to “fix” people instead of improving processes and systems. Conventional wisdom says we just need to hire the right people, motivate them, and hold them accountable. This results in an ingrained mindset that “unproductive” people are misplaced, unmotivated, and/or irresponsible. Employing these flawed tactics has been tried and left wanting. “Motivation techniques” are typically employed, trying to force movement of individuals instead of allowing them to do the excellent work they already want to do. “Accountability efforts” are often used to judge the work of persons for things they have little control over. What arises, therefore, are process that have many extra steps – steps added to the process just to avoid the possibility of future blame. Alternatively, privatization of government services is sometimes suggested and often tried, but the same issues arise under the new management. This gums up and kinks the pipes, the agency’s systems and processes.

To combat this poor view of the human person and government employee, we must realize that the science of motivation is fairly conclusive, and it doesn’t come in hardcover for $24.95. There are three primary drivers of employee engagement and motivation:

1) mastery;

2) autonomy; and

3) purpose.

Government shines when it comes to purpose, which is the service of the public. Mastery and autonomy often are most noticeable when the challenge of the job is just a bit ahead of an employee’s current capability, but still within the employees reach. Miller recommends we focus on purpose, mastery and autonomy in government service, and eradicate the typical and misguided motivation efforts. This will allow us to treat each other as teammates rather than as parents and children. He also notes that the “bad apples” also need to be removed from the workplace without hampering the effectiveness of the entire workforce.

By eliminating these outdated motivational techniques, managers can then focus on improving the systems and processes of government. Government should instead focus on helping employees with mastery, autonomy and purpose.

However, we often are starting with some difficulties. Continual application of “this can never happen again” and Adam Smith’s division and simplification of labor have produced processes that are often only 5% “time-efficient” when comparing actual work time to total elapsed time – due to all of the steps often added to the process just to avoid the possibility of future blame. Miller suggests, therefore, that by removing all of the toxic blame avoidance processes and by giving employees the opportunity to gain mastery and to see the purpose, the customers of government will receive much better products, and will receive them much faster.

Five tactics are suggested to combat slow cumbersome processes (in addition to eliminating the “blame avoidance syndrome”):

1) Triage,

2) Parallel processing,

3) Constraint-focus,

4) Batch-cutting, and

5) Backlog-elimination.

Triage seeks to avoid making low-maintenance customers go through extra processing.

Parallel processing allows employees to work independently and in parallel, instead of being forced to work sequentially.

Constraint-focus is about getting overall more “widgets” (deliverables) out to customers.

Batch-cutting allows faster flow through the process so that widgets don’t wait for each other.

Backlog-elimination - Backlogs are the result of batching, constraints, and special delays that have not been reduced / eliminated. They simply need a succinct plan to be eliminated once and for all.

A common concern is that if the process goes faster, then quality will be sacrificed. However, Miller shows examples where the opposite is true. At its core, if a person is given a greater view of the overall product, and is given more time away from blame avoidance activities, then they can spend more time to verify the quality of their portion of work. Additionally, if there are more inspectors, each only feels a fraction of the responsibility for the results. Poka-yoke techniques (such as checklists) that seek to error-proof processes are proposed as helpful in increasing the quality of process outputs.

Moving faster and producing higher-quality products will lead to cost-savings. Miller next introduces how the bottom line can be impacted through more specific principles. Time, transactions, mistakes, specialist touches, and management intervention are all cost drivers. Miller’s recommendation here is to reduce all of these, citing numerous examples. For instance, reducing the “legalese” on mailers and forms will prevent the need for customers to call and ask for clarification, not to mention increased first-time success in responding to the mailer or form. All of these aspects formerly cost time and money on the part of the customer and the agency.

Miller next makes a few distinctions regarding the overall structure of pipes and technology use. There are only a few main “mission” pipes within any government agency. These pipes are most important because they actually serve the end role of government. Thus, improvement efforts should start here. All other processes should be ordered such that they can best support these mission pipes, often rightfully forsaking priority for other service pipes. Many examples are given in this regard. Miller then makes the distinction that technology for its own sake will not lead to a better process. However, if technology allows for truly faster, better, and cheaper processes, then it can be considered a useful tool. Also important is for managers to avoid using a perpetually pending new technology system from keeping them from making process improvements. If a broken process is automated, it simply makes it harder to correct.

Author: Ken Miller; ISBN number: 0983373302
Posted: July 24, 2013
Summary by: Marcus Ritosa

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