Saturday, October 6, 2012

A NPS Rant-Why all the turnover?

Here is a somewhat tangential rant against the way the the NPS is managed at the national level:
This post states that the decision to remove the Waterhole Hut was made the ONP management team in 2008.  The problem is (and this is my rant) that there has been 100% turnover in the leadership of the park since then.  Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Chief Ranger, Chief of Maintenance, Park Planner, and Hurricane Ridge District Ranger have all changed hands since then, sometimes more than once.

I believe this is not unusual in the way our Park system is managed, and that it has a negative impact on all aspects of the Park.

  1. The Management Team barely has a chance to get to know the Park employees, which can not be good for moral. This study shows that the NPS ranks close to the bottom of all federal agencies in terms of job satisfaction.
  2. The Management Team barely has a chance to get to know the nuances of the Park itself.  What makes Olympic special compared to parks in the Pacific and Florida when our two most recent Superintendents have come from?
  3. The Management Team barely has a chance to get to know the nuances of the communities surrounding the Park.  A tuned in leadership team would know the importance of winter access to Hurricane Ridge and work to embrace the passionate support of it's supporters.  And those needs pale in comparison to the relationships with the Tribes surrounding ONP.  Those relationships take time to build and time to maintain.
  4. The need to constantly move every five years or so to advance in the NPS self selects people that are willing to sacrifice family and community for career advancement.  Are those the people we want in leadership? In the above referenced study the NPS scored 38.3 out of 185 in the "family friendly culture and benefits" category.  That is incredible for a service whose existence is to bring families together.
  5. Unlike other high turnover professions, such as coaching, the new leader does not get to bring in their own team.  Therefore, the duration of the tenure of all these individuals is spent working out the roles and strengths of each member of the team.
  6. National Parks are not widget factories, where a solution that worked in X park can be applied in Y.  In fact, I have heard that several times in talking with ONP officials about other parks that keep their winter roads open.  Yet, that seems to be the point of moving leadership around- to standardize management decisions and processes.
  7. It causes decisions to be made based on their effects on career advancement rather than what is best for the Park and Community.
  8. Good Park employees that opt out of career advancement for community or family values are marginalized in decision making.

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