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  News  

DCFS Director Announces
Management Team Redesign

Chicago, Ill. -- Director Bryan Samuels has re-designed the DCFS management structure to emphasize teamwork, collaboration, innovation and communication. The new structure represents a more integrated, comprehensive approach to effectively delivering high quality services to children in Department care.

The re-design supports the priorities of the Agency, which are: protecting and serving the abused and neglected children of Illinois who come into our care; building an efficient system around the needs of the children DCFS serves and obtaining a clearer understanding of who these children are and what they need; providing wards top-notch services, no matter what the mechanism of delivery is.

Director Samuels emphasized that this is an attempt to change the way DCFS is managed, not the actual work done by staff. In other words, he said, "keep doing what you're doing."

Kim Broome of the Department's office of communications interviewed Director Samuels about how the new management structure supports his priorities for DCFS.

Kim Broome:
What is the philosophy of the new management team?

Director Samuels:
From the time that I was on the Task Force, and the five weeks that I've been here, there are three critical issues that I have identified for the new management structure to address:

Lack of communication - It seems that in the past there really wasn't a consistent means of getting information out about how decisions were made, what decisions were made and who was involved in those decisions. Information was shared on a "need to know" basis and that created, I think, a lot of territorial behavior. The new structure will allow for information sharing.

Move toward inclusive decision-making - Previously, discussions were limited to only those immediately impacted by the decision. In fact, what needs to happen is that there should be broader discussion about how any particular decision impacts the entire Department. The new management team will open up discussions, creating diversity and a greater flow of possible options before decision are made.

Work more collaboratively - The old system was set up so that an individual or group of individuals had a particular territory and they were in charge of what happened in that territory. The unspoken agreement was that one person didn't say anything to the next person about his territory. This was a type of game that was played kind of like, "I'll stay away from your home, if you stay away from mine." That may be an efficient way to do things in terms of making quick decisions, but the problem is that it lends itself to animosity and friction when issues that are related to more than one place are in question. People aren't used to dealing with one another in a collaborative way; they're not used to communicating in a friendly and informative way. So when tough issues are occurring that cut across the Agency, there simply aren't the skills, capacity and willingness to work across boundaries. The new management team will allow for a more collaborative decision-making process. People will be held accountable and given responsibilities, but there will also be a means by which different parts of the Department will understand how others are operating. This will create a more systematic and synchronistic manner of functioning. In other words, the left hand will know what the right hand is doing.

Kim Broome:
How did you identify the candidates for the new management team? Please walk us through the process.

Director Samuels:
The first step was simply to figure out how the new organization chart would look differently from the old. I wanted to be clear that personalities didn't matter, meaning I wasn't going to organize the members of the management team based on whether I liked somebody or not. So the first thing I had to do was craft a system that was strategically pointed in the right direction and that structure was organized according to function. Like functions were moved together in a consistent way, so a deputy director can manage them. The initial task was to look at the old org chart and say, "visually remove the personalities and specific people," and ask myself, "what areas would naturally fit together." So I started moving some functions around, and once I got to a point where I thought things were looking right I began to consult with people throughout the Agency for feedback. By integrated input from others who know the Department well, it was not a "total outsider" approach. This led to the establishment of the individual units, which we have not decided whether we will call them "offices" or "divisions". At any rate, we have ten of them. Once I had the ten big picture items identified, I went through all of our units and major functions within the Agency and began to allocate them.

We had the big headings of each of the areas and which current activities fit under each. We then allocated out each of the major functions and activities within the organization, so that we could see whether or not there was consistency both within the divisions and across the divisions. At this point, I got more feedback from individuals throughout the Department. That was the basis for me to be able to say, "okay, now I know what the org chart looks like and I know that the major functions and major activities of the Department are allocated appropriately under each division." In my mind, I had to do that almost simultaneously to be able to begin the recruitment and interview process because I needed to have a sense of the types of folks that I needed for each division or office. So the process occurred on a parallel track.

Next, we began the interview process. One of the things that people should know is that we had a very aggressive outreach and interview process. I haven't gone back and counted, but I can safely say that we interviewed over 50 people in the five weeks that I've been here. On one Saturday alone, we interviewed 17 people, meaning that I interviewed one person every half hour, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a half-hour break for lunch. By the end of that, I could barely speak, but our purpose was to make sure we got a good look at all kinds of candidates. Although I don't know the absolute number, I would say we interviewed just as many people from inside the Agency as from outside. Some of the résumés came from people who asked to be considered. Some came because people heard that there were possibilities, and others came because we reached out to people when we heard of their capabilities. Overall, the résumés came from a variety of sources. What we tried to do was to bring in a wide host of folks to make sure we had a very diverse and inclusive group of candidates. It was through that process that we ended up with the set of people that we have. One of the things that you'll see in the major divisions is that within the 10 deputies, five of them were employees of DCFS prior to my arrival. In most cases, these represent promotions. The remaining five are from outside of the Agency, and I think this is a very good mix of "insiders" and "outsiders." It's also very timely, given that we want to make some changes to the Department's structure. Yet, at the same time, we want to build on what's already been accomplished. Having people who were a part of the previous leadership and operations in the last administration was critical in making sure that we kept the solid foundation that exists. Bringing in outsiders will allow us to go in some directions that simply weren't a priority in the last administration.

Kim Broome:
Can you tell us about the diversity of the new management team?

Director Samuels:
When you look at the deputy director level, you'll see significant diversity. There are five African Americans, two Hispanics, and three Caucasians. So we have a good mix of diversity as far as individuals from inside and outside the Agency, as well as ethnically.

Kim Broome:
Are there any other points you would like to leave us with?

Director Samuels:
It is important to mention that the new structure is intended to represent the management structure, not a reorganization of the individual offices and clusters of work that is currently being done. We are not changing the units, themselves, and the way in which staff are currently organized. We're not going to go in and make any significant changes in where people sit, what functions they perform or how the work is done on a daily basis. What we are changing is the way in which the work is overseen, the way in which decisions are made, and the way in which activities are coordinated. So I don't want people to see the org chart and panic, thinking, "Oh my God, I'm going to have to move to Springfield now, or from the sixth floor to the third floor, or from the Michigan office to the Randolph office, etc." This is not the case, at all. It's just that those individuals who will have the responsibility for overseeing the work will have to get to where ever staff are and make sure that on a day-to-day basis staff know what they should and shouldn't be doing. It's critical that people understand that. We're not breaking up or moving people, their computers, or their desks. We're not doing any of that stuff.

It is my intent that these deputy directors, and other key staff, are a part of the ongoing decision-making process and will give status reports on where we're at in each of the divisions. We're going to talk about what the major challenges are, and we're going to make decisions about where the Agency should be going. So instead of the director and one deputy director making all the decisions, it will be the director in conjunction with the other deputy directors and relative personnel sitting down at the table making the decisions on a day-to-day basis. The reason why that's important is that, by having them all there, they can go back to their offices and divisions and be able to explain to their staff how decisions got made, what the decisions are, and how they are going to be carried out.

The second part about having a management team is that we can ensure that cross-team collaboration occurs. We need to be around the table, sharing all of the information so that, for example, we know when Placement and Permanency needs to be working closely with Field Operations because those guys are in the same office on a week-to-week basis having these discussions with one another. Having people around the table and working as a team is a critical part of this structure, and people need to understand that those folks are going to be in the room when all of the major decisions are going to be made.

I cannot run this Agency by myself. We have 3,600 employees and a ton of contractors out there. I can't run this Agency by myself. I'm not gonna act like I can. I'm not gonna to try to. I am going to rely on all of these folks to be apart of the decision-making process because the management team does truly represent the leadership for the Agency. This is an inclusive model, not an exclusive one.

Over the next few years, we are going to make some strategic shifts in the way in which we do business. For example, concentrating on high-end youth for the first time and getting a clear picture of exactly what our kids look like and what their clinical needs are, so that we can provide the right mix of services. We're going to make some decisions about shifting directions, and I think it's critical that we get the input of the full Agency as we make those changes. One way to be able to do that is by having a management structure that looks like the new one, so that information not only flows down, but information can flow back up from the field and from professional staff throughout the Agency. This will create a free flow of information so that decisions don't appear to be made arbitrarily in the director's office.

Hopefully the new management structure will prevent me from making a knee-jerk reaction without the full benefit of informed discussion. This team is going to hold me accountable, because I will have to deliberate with them prior to making any critical decisions

Kim Broome:
What are your priorities for the Department?

Director Samuels:
That's a tough one, because there's a lot of work that needs to be done here. However, my first priority is to fill staff vacancies. Obviously, it's the direct service component that DCFS is primarily responsible for and staff members need to feel like they have the resources they need to do their jobs. Part of those resources includes colleagues who can fulfill their individual responsibilities. For example, workers want to feel like they have a reasonable caseload so they can, in fact, do the job they're being paid to do. So the first priority is to hire as many people as possible, so that we have sufficient support and adequate service capacity for DCFS employees.

A second priority continues to be the missing children issue and making sure that we identify as many of them as possible. We originally gave ourselves a 60-day period to identify as many as is humanly possible, and we're at about the halfway mark in terms of numbers. Over the next four weeks, we're going to push really hard to find as many kids as possible. Right now we're at about 175 kids out of the original 400, so we're getting close.

There are also some short-term priorities such as getting the Cook Central issues worked out in terms of reaching an agreement with the union for moving ahead with the realignment and the partial re-org that we've been negotiating. I think we're down to one or two last issues with the union, and assuming that we can reconcile those differences, we will be able to fully announce our plan for completing the realignment for Cook Central. We should have an agreement fairly quickly that outlines specifically what we're going to do and what impact it's going to have on staff and supervision.

Finally, another short-term priority is with the new management team, getting everyone on board and up and running. We'll have just about all of the new deputy directors on board by the second week in July. Then we just need to get everyone organized around that so that we can begin to operate in a slightly different way than we have in the past.

Contact:
Jill Manuel
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
312-814-6847

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