2017 Redesign Ends With a Whimper as Tillerson Announces Start of “The Impact Initiative”

Posted: 4:17 am ET
Updated: Feb 14, 1:17 pm PT

 

The State Department’s 2019 Budget Proposal released on February 12 includes a cover letter where Secretary Tillerson talks about the “completed [the] 2017 Redesign.” Hookay.  On February 13, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to his employees announcing The Impact Initiative (Please note that the Impact Initiative links do not work in the regular Internet, but only works in the State Department’s Intranet so we’ve disabled them below). 

The Impact Initiative is the implementation of plans generated during the 2017 Redesign to enhance our ability to carry out America’s foreign policy and strengthen our leadership training and development. Modernization and Leadership projects are now underway, and employees are being asked to participate in various components of the initiative. Through Modernization and Leadership, the Impact Initiative will help improve efficiency and enhance our ability to deliver on our mission. Please go to http://impact.state.gov for additional information and to sign up for regular updates.

TII is supposed to lay a foundation for the future, and as we’ve previously reported, INR’s Dan Smith is now formally identified as the lead for this new organizational experience. Also see Tillerson’s #Redesign Gets Rebranded as “The Impact Initiative” or TII But Why Not TELII?

The Impact Initiative is the implementation of plans generated during the 2017 Redesign for modernizing work processes and tools and strengthening leadership in the Department. The Modernization projects will reduce impediments to more efficient operations, as identified during the Redesign process; and the Leadership component will focus on ensuring we build the skills, experience, and leadership qualities that we need in our Civil Service, Foreign Service, and locally employed staff. I am pleased to announce that Ambassador Daniel Smith (http://impact.state.gov/ambassador-daniel-b-smith/), Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, will lead the Impact Initiative.

Tillerson’s message to State Department employees includes a section labeled “Background: From Redesign to Impact” — obviously a necessary reminder for an exercise that has been repeatedly identified as “employee-led” … well, in case the employees have forgotten:

The 2017 Redesign, a joint State-USAID initiative, examined our work processes, our workforce development, and our technology tools. The Redesign was tasked to identify opportunities to make our agencies more effective and efficient and identify obstacles that, if removed, would allow us to accomplish our mission with greater impact. Many of you were involved in the various phases of the Redesign, which examined work processes and organizational practices that hold us back and identified those problems that were both significant and solvable. During the Redesign, teams of your colleagues came up with concrete plans and proposals to modernize our work.

As the Redesign wrapped up in 2017, I shared my vision for implementing the resulting projects during a town hall last December: Modernization + Leadership = Greater Mission Impact, or the Impact Initiative for short.

And now about those “Keystone Projects”

The first component of the Impact Initiative is Modernization. Impact Initiative teams are working to implement Modernization projects in three areas: information technology and human resources, policy processes and our global resource footprint, and operational efficiencies. In practical terms, this means the Impact Initiative aims to bring our HR and IT systems in line with modern day standards, streamline our policy development and execution, modernize how we deploy our resources globally, and capture operational efficiencies.

There are 16 keystone Modernization projects with teams working in those projects but they’re only available on the Intranet site.

Tillerson talks about leadership and strengthening training and development:

The second component of the Impact Initiative is Leadership, and I have highlighted the importance of strengthening leadership development. I recently launched a series of Leadership Lectures based on the core leadership tenets. We are reviewing our leadership principles and working to ensure we have the right policies and programs in place to effectively recruit, train, and develop the next generation of Foreign and Civil Service leaders to advance our foreign policy goals for the 21st Century. At my direction, a Leadership Coalition has been selected from a diverse cross-section of established and up-and-coming career leaders to identify ways to strengthen and improve leadership development and delivery of leadership training. Julieta Valls Noyes (http://impact.state.gov/ambassador-julieta-valls-noyes/), Acting Deputy Director of the Foreign Service Institute, is heading the Leadership component of the Impact Initiative.

Tillerson ends his message with a note that TII needs the employees’ “support and participation” and ask that they sign up for regular updates. “For the Impact Initiative to succeed, everyone in the State Department and USAID must stay up-to-date on progress of the work of the Modernization Project teams and Leadership Coalition.”

 

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Tillerson’s #Redesign Gets Rebranded as “The Impact Initiative” or TII But Why Not TELII?

Posted: 4:01 am ET

 

Via Politico’s Nahal Toosi:

“State Department officials say that talk of closing down entire wings of the department has been replaced with narrower plans to upgrade technology and improve training. Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress have declared dead on arrival a Tillerson-supported White House plan to cut State’s budget by 30 percent.
[…]
State Department staffers expect to receive an update as early as this week on a new phase in Tillerson’s organizational plans, according to senior department official. Out is the term “redesign” — which spawned confusion, dissent and leaks. The new stage is being called “The Impact Initiative,” which will implement changes that Tillerson has deemed achievable priorities in the face of bureaucratic and congressional hurdles. (Tillerson aides insist he’s not rebranding the overall effort, just moving from the poorly named “redesign” phase, which gathered ideas, to a new one that implements them.)
[…]
The senior State Department official said Tillerson also is planning to select someone to oversee the Impact Initiative but declined to say whom. (The Impact Initiative is shorthand for a longer moniker that Tillerson, an engineer by training, signed off on: “Leadership + Modernization = Greater Mission Impact.”)

Oh, dear, that longer moniker was worth the brainstorming.

Let’s see if they’re going to insist on hiring another outside overseer who will stick around for three exciting months.

Tillerson’s aides may not call TII or “The Impact Initiative” a rebranding effort but who are they actually kidding, pray tell?  TII can also be called ‘Tillerson Impact Initiative’ and they can even keep the same acronym, hey?!  It is what it is, a rebranding effort because very few are buying what they’re selling.

Actually, we’re curious why no one came up with calling this TELII or ‘The Employee-Led Impact Initiative.” Or ‘The Agile Employee Impact Initiative’ (TAEII). Or why settle with “greater” and not just call this ‘The Greatest Mission Impact Initiative’ (TGMII)?

Take it, it’s free. You’re welcome!

Tillerson will reportedly testify about the status of this new TII before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the end of February. Help us contain our excitement, please.

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@USAID Suspends Involvement in Tillerson’s Redesign Passion Project

Posted: 12:58 am ET

 

AND NOW THIS —

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Tillerson’s End of Year Confession: I Am Proud of Our Diplomacy #TigerTeamsin2018

Posted: 4:02 pm PT
Updated: 12/31 10:29 am PT

 

On December 28, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson published an op-ed in The New York Times, entitled “I Am Proud Of Our Diplomacy”. You may also read it here via state.gov.

On North Korea: A door to dialogue remains open, but we have made it clear that the regime must earn its way back to the negotiating table. Until denuclearization occurs, the pressure will continue.

Pakistan: We are prepared to partner with Pakistan to defeat terrorist organizations seeking safe havens, but Pakistan must demonstrate its desire to partner with us.

Russia: Absent a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine situation, which must begin with Russia’s adherence to the Minsk agreements, there cannot be business as usual with Russia.

Iran: We will continue to work with our allies and with Congress to explore options for addressing the nuclear deal’s many flaws, while building a like-minded effort to punish Iran for its violations of ballistic missile commitments and its destabilizing activities in the region.

On the redesign:

I am proud of what our State Department and Agency for International Development teams around the world have accomplished this year, and our progress will continue in 2018 and beyond. To that end, we have undertaken a redesign of the State Department to strengthen our teams’ ability to deliver on our mission.

Our redesign doesn’t involve simply shifting boxes on an organizational chart. Our changes must address root problems that lead to inefficiencies and frustrations. By making changes like streamlining our human resources and information technology systems, better aligning personnel and resources with America’s strategic priorities, and reforming duplicative processes, we are giving our people more opportunities to flourish professionally and spend more time confronting the global problems they have dedicated their careers to solving.

When I wake up each morning, my first thought is, “How can I and my colleagues at the State Department use diplomacy to prevent people around the world from being killed, wounded or deprived of their rights?” In spite of the challenges, I remain optimistic about the power of diplomacy to resolve conflicts and advance American interests. My confidence comes from the knowledge that our efforts are carried out daily by patriotic and dedicated State Department employees who make sacrifices to serve with patience and persistence and who, by advancing democratic values the world over, are protecting our citizens’ rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Should we thank the new R Undersecretary Steve Goldstein for this? A bit underwhelming after a tumultuous year around the world, and a year of ‘what the heck’ is going on in Foggy Bottom. Folks can be forgiven if you let out a deep sigh. We did, too.  Tillerson did not mention them in his op-ed but we’re hearing about the “tiger teams” and the “keystone projects” that are in some of our readers’ future as 2018 marches in.

Rawr!

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@StateDept Spox Explains Why Maliz Beams Left the Counselor Post – Oh, Lordy!

Posted: 2:26 am ET

 

As best we could tell, Secretary Tillerson first talked about the redesign at his agency as an “employee-led” effort on August 9, 2017 at a quick stop at the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia:

We’ve taken that information now and we’ve set up a number of work teams. Now this whole effort is led by the employees of the State Department, your colleagues. We have a steering team that helps guide them that’s chaired by Deputy Secretary Sullivan. But we really are wanting this to be an employee-led redesign effort, and it’s all about looking at how we get our work done. 

But back in July, an unnamed State Department spokesperson appeared on the July 17, 2017 Foreign Policy piece Tillerson to Shutter State Department War Crimes Office, talking about the “employee-led redesign initiative.”

So, it’s quite hilarious to read the State Department spokesperson’s response during the Daily Press Briefing of November 27 when asked about the departure of Maliz Beams.

Keep in mind that Maliz Beams did not join the State Department until August 17, 2017 (see Former Voya Financial CEO Maliz Beams Reportedly Appointed @StateDept Counselor@StateDept Now Has an Official Bio For New Counselor of the State Department Maliz E. Beams).

When asked why Ms. Beams left her post, Official Spokesperson Heather Nauert said “She said to me that she came here to set the vision for the redesign.” Further Ms. Nauert said, “She sets the vision. She’s done that for this organization. She feels that she’s accomplished that in setting the vision. She said to me, quote, “I feel good about it.”

A member of the press corps was quick to ask a fairly simple follow-up question – “in a sentence, what is the vision that she has set for the redesign?” The official response is a pretzels demo:

“Well, one of the things that we’ve said is that this is an employee-driven process. And a lot of folks made fun of this, but asking employees what they want, what changes they want, is something that is new and something that is significant, and that is something that they have been able to do to determine where there are redundancies. And that’s one of the ways that we will do that.”

Is Ms. Nauert suggesting that the “employee-driven” or employee-led” process was Ms. Beams’ vision for the redesign? And if so, how was Ms. Beams able to do this when a month before she joined the State Department, an unnamed spokesperson was already talking about the redesign in those same terms?

If the spox was not suggesting that the “employee-driven process” was Ms. Beams’ vision at the State Department, what the heck was she talking about. What was the vision-setting that Ms. Beams accomplished at the agency during her three-month tenure?

Excerpt from the transcript:

QUESTION: Why did Maliz Beams leave her post as counselor of the department?

MS NAUERT: So Maliz Beams was brought in to help pull together the redesign. That’s one of the things that the Secretary said is important to him and important to the State Department. And frankly, when you ask people here, the rank and file, what they think about the redesign, while our communications have not been fantastic – I will admit that – the – they support by and large the efforts of the redesign, acknowledging that the State Department can become more efficient and operate more effectively with the redesign.

Maliz Beams – I spoke with her earlier today at length. I was there yesterday when she announced to senior staff that she would be leaving the State Department. Maliz made the decision to resign from the State Department. She said to me that she came here to set the vision for the redesign. She has done this for many companies. She’s had a 30-year career in this line of work. She sets the vision. She’s done that for this organization. She feels that she’s accomplished that in setting the vision. She said to me, quote, “I feel good about it.” So now is the time when she decided that she wanted to step back and that it was the time for the State Department to be able to pick it up from here.

We are in phase three of the redesign right now. There are 70 initiatives that she helped enable to prepare to launch. Those initiatives are being chaired by some of our top career people who have been here for many, many years, included among them names and faces you will know: Ambassador Bill Todd, also Ambassador Marcia Bernicat from Bangladesh. They are involved in these 70 initiatives. They are people that the building knows, they are people that the building trust, they are people who love this institution. I can tell you that the Secretary is expected to speak with staff here at the State Department sometime in the near future. I don’t have a date for that just yet. And then we have our new under secretary for public diplomacy and political affairs, who will be handling some of the communications going forward.

QUESTION: She was not asked or encouraged to leave?

MS NAUERT: She made the decision to step down.

QUESTION: No, no. She couldn’t make the decision to step down after having been encouraged to consider whether to step down?

MS NAUERT: She made the decision to step down.

QUESTION: But was not encouraged or asked to step down?

MS NAUERT: Not to my knowledge. I was not in the meeting at the time, but I spoke with her. I also spoke with our deputy secretary and others about this, and this was her decision.

QUESTION: Heather, in a sentence, what is the vision that she has set for the redesign?

MS NAUERT: Well, one of the things that we’ve said is that this is an employee-driven process. And a lot of folks made fun of this, but asking employees what they want, what changes they want, is something that is new and something that is significant, and that is something that they have been able to do to determine where there are redundancies. And that’s one of the ways that we will do that. Among the other things in the redesign that has been highlighted as important to this department and it may seem kind of dopey to a lot of folks who have great computers and comms like you all do, but to get a better computer system in place. I cannot stress —

QUESTION: A better commuter system?

MS NAUERT: Computer system.

QUESTION: Oh, oh, oh. Because I was going to go all in on the better commuter system. (Laughter.) The Metro is awful.

MS NAUERT: It is extremely frustrating when you are trying to respond to press questions, for example. How many times have you all heard from me or from Robert or Robert’s predecessor, Mark Stroh, when our comms are down for a very long time? It is embarrassing. We can’t get to you, you can’t get to us. Well, imagine if we need to reach folks around the world. So that has been a problem. And that’s one of the things that the Secretary and Maliz Beams has identified as being something that we want to make more efficient and better. Okay.

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Tillerson’s Redesign Chief Leaves Office After Three Months, Meet the New Redesigner-in-Chief

Posted: 3:19 am ET

 

We blogged about Maliz Beams’ appointment back in August (see Former Voya Financial CEO Maliz Beams Reportedly Appointed @StateDept Counselor) and again when her official bio finally showed up on state.gov (see @StateDept Now Has an Official Bio For New Counselor of the State Department Maliz E. Beams).

On November 27, a State Department spokesperson confirmed to the press that Maliz Beams who was appointed Counselor of the State Department on August 17, 2017 and tasked with leading Tillerson’s redesign efforts “is stepping away from her role here at the Department of State and is returning to her home in Boston.”

In addition to the names mentioned in the BuzzFeed piece below, prior to Ms. Beams arrival at State, the redesign efforts was managed by an FSO brought back from overseas. At another point, an ambassador’s spouse was also brought in to work the redesign beat. Did we miss anyone?

The State Department statement notes that “Effective immediately, Christine Ciccone will step in to lead the redesign effort and manage its daily activities.”

BuzzFeed quotes Thomas Hill of the Brookings Institution and a former Republican staffer on the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) saying that “Beams’ departure is disappointing because she did at least have private sector experience in redesigning major organizations” and that “Now she’s being replaced by someone with very little experience with agency reform or the State Department.”

Christine Ciccone is officially Tillerson’s  Deputy Chief of Staff. Prior to landing at the State Department, she was the chief operating officer of Jeb Bush’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. She resigned late in 2015 when the Bush campaign underwent a downsizing according to the Daily Wire.  Ciccone also worked in George W. Bush’s presidential administration as special assistant to the president and before that was a longtime Senate staffer. In 2014, she headed a newly formed entity SGR LLC, Government Relations & Lobbying, a sister firm of Sphere Consulting LLC. (See Bush chief operating officer departs campaignJeb team’s chief operating officer quits. WaPo recently reported about SGR LLC).

So now Ms. Ciccone is double hatted as Deputy Chief of Staff and Redesigner-in-Chief, and Brian Hook is S/P and the all bureaus-in-one hat. We can’t wait for the next Hill briefing and the new redesign slides!

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, joined by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, left, and Deputy Chief of Staff Christine Ciccone, prepare for a meeting with U.S./Alaska Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 10, 2017. [U.S. Air Force photo / Public Domain]

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Tillerson’s Aides Brief Senate Staffers on @StateDept Reorganization With a Chockful of Buzz Words

Posted: 11:41 am PST

 

On November 7, we wrote that a State Department top official did a presentation to ranking officials of the agency concerning the ongoing redesign (see @StateDept Redesign Briefing Presents Five “Guiding Beliefs” and Five “Key Outcomes” #OMG).

It looks like that presentation document was expanded and was used to brief the aides at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 9. Politico’s Nahal Toosi posted the briefing document here crammed with corporate buzz phrases.  Oh, where do we start? Maybe the corporate B.S. generator helpfully pointed out to us on social media?

Slide 2 is labeled Overview of the DOS/USAID Redesign / Culture Change. It asks “What is Redesign?” and has the four bullet points with lots of words, but short on the how. Or the why for that matter. What kind of cultural change does this redesign envision? What is the current organizational culture, what’s wrong with it, and why is this new culture better? We don’t know because it doesn’t say on the overview. We do know that the SFRC bosses were not satisfied with the briefing given to the staffers.

So when they talked about “Focusing on strengthening the State Department’s and USAID’s future capacity” how did they align that with hiring below attrition with a graying workforce, a third of them eligible to retire by 2020?  (see @StateDept/USAID Staffing Cut and Attrition: A Look at Real Numbers and Projected Attrition).

A third point says “Equipping us to be the U.S. government’s agency leader in foreign policy and development over the next forty years.”

Lordy, who wrote these slides? Also folks, why forty years?  That’ll be 2057, what’s the significance there? Or are they talking forty years in biblical time as in Numbers 32:13“The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.”

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@StateDept Awards $2,105,663 Contract For Efficiency Task Force Support #Redesign

Posted: 12:58 am ET
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According to a July 2017 NYT report, Mr. Tillerson had hired Deloitte and Insigniam to help oversee the State Department’s reorganization.

If you click on Award ID GS00Q09BGD0018 displayed below via USAspending.gov that shows $2,105,663.00, it will take you to SAQMMA16F1155 dated June 30, 2017 with an obligated amount of $2,105,663.00. The contract awarded to Deloitte Consulting LLP includes the following details for Deloitte:

Product or Service Code | D318: IT AND TELECOM- INTEGRATED HARDWARE/SOFTWARE/SERVICES SOLUTIONS, PREDOMINANTLY SERVICES

Principal NAICS Code | 541512: COMPUTER SYSTEMS DESIGN SERVICES

Under contract information for SAQMMA16F1155, USASpending notes “THIS TASK ORDER PROVIDES SUPPORT FOR A DEPARTMENT OF STATE EFFICIENCY TASK FORCE. IGF::OT::IGF”

If we add this to the $1,086,250 for the organizational study that the State Department previously spent, the cost for Tillerson’s redesign is now $3,191,913.00.

As of this writing, we have not been able to locate the SAQMMA16F1155 documents on fedbiz.gov. The following clips are extracted from USAspending.gov where bare bones contract information is typically published. Click on the image for a larger view.

 

 

Related posts:

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@StateDept Redesign Briefing Presents Five “Guiding Beliefs” and Five “Key Outcomes” #OMG

Posted: 2:24 am ET
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The State Department is still in the midst of its redesign exercise. We understand that a couple of weeks ago, a State Department top official did a redesign presentation to ranking officials of the agency. This must be part of Phase 3 of the redesign efforts to communicate the plan to the employees and external stakeholders. This phase also includes the implementation of “functional projects” that reportedly supports the “Comprehensive Redesign” (we don’t yet know what are those projects, but we’ve been hearing about purported “quick wins”). Further, this phase reportedly includes the “development of an atmosphere of culture change.” We’re still waiting to learn how they’re gonna do cultural change in Foggy Bottom.

(See Why Tillerson Not Sullivan Needs the Town Hall: Morale Is Bad, “S” is Accountable)

The presentation notes first that “Diplomacy and development will become even more important as global power dynamics continue to change.” (Wait — a newbie at the State Department told diplomats and development professionals with decades of experience that diplomacy and development will become even more important even as the agency is planning to slash its funding and staff?).

Did anyone laugh out loud during the presentation?

The presentation then explains the State Department and USAID’s “Guiding Beliefs” for the Tillerson redesign.  There are reportedly five of these beliefs:

➨ 1. We will each need to communicate directly and continually engage with our domestic and global stakeholders regarding our purposes, missions, ambitions, and achievements.

➨ 2. We will each need the agility to adopt state-of-the-art information technologies and to adapt to rapidly changing technological advancements that are driving broader changes in the world.

➨ 3. We will each need to modernize our workforce systems (including recruitment, training, and performance management to maintain passionate, top-quality, and more agile workforces).

➨ 4. Our respective decision-making will need to take advantage of advancements in knowledge management and in data collection, analytics, and visualization.

➨ 5. We will need to focus on our respective comparative advantages as we address threats and leverage opportunities posed by the growing power and influence of emerging states, non-state actors, civil society, the private sector, and individuals.

All nice words. And 1) they can start communicating with their employees starting with S, the chief sponsor of this change; 2) money, money, money ; 3) uh-oh; 4) darnit, darnit, science! and 5) boo!

The second presentation point notes that “global competition for economic, financial, natural, human, and technological resources, and changes in society and social structures (brought on by migration, climate change, large scale unemployment, social isolation, wealth disparities, and similar shifts) will create opportunities for inter- and intra-state conflict and/or cooperation.”

No. Kidding. Is this Foggy Bottom’s kindergarten class?

And third, that “growing reliance on data and technology will increase vulnerabilities at the micro and macro levels, requiring new approaches to risk mitigation at all levels of government and among all elements of society both in the United States and abroad.”

Who. Knew?

The presentation also talks about the five key outcomes namely:

  • effective and strategic global leadership
  • maximizing the impact of foreign assistance
  • mission-driven, high performing, agile workforce
  • nimble and data informed decision making
  • mission enabling, world-class infrastructure support

Given that the State Department has now communicated the U.S. intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, our most favorite part in this list of outcomes gotta be “data informed decision making.”

The presentation also talks about “tranche goals” and “five outcome goals” — oops! Don’t look now! We’ve gone mighty dizzy.

But holy moly guacamole! Which intern should be sent to the Republic of Nambia for this BS?

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Question of the Day: How many meaningless words can you cram into one Redesign slide? #Q&A

Posted: 1:56 pm PT
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