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Case Study: California’s Reclamation District 108

Changing leadership, creating a plan & supporting execution
What happens when the long-term general manager for a reclamation district retires? California’s Reclamation District 108 faced this difficult challenge, and asked SEE Strategies’s Larry Mandelberg to help facilitate a smooth and effective transition.

The RD 108 General Manager reports to a district board of directors comprised of land owners from the district. As stakeholders, the board members role is to support and hold accountable the general manager’s fulfillment of the District’s mission.

The mission of the District is threefold:

  • Prevent flooding and/or remove flood waters from properties in the district;
  • Ensure district properties have sufficient water for agricultural production, and;
  • Prevent erosion.

In identifying the challenges the District had to overcome, SEE Strategies delivered an effective process that led to a result that exceeded the client’s expectations.

“(We had) a great experience with SEE Strategies.  Larry gave us direction and process. He helped us to define our most critical roles, put together all of our thoughts, and come out with clear definitions.”
---Fritz Durst, Board Chair, Reclamation District 108

The Problem
Lu had been the RD 108 general manager for 12 years, and was retiring.  Lewis, the assistant GM, had been named his successor.  Both, along with the board of directors, wanted the transition to be as seamless as possible.  Often when a long-term leader departs they leave a void behind.  The Board’s tenure is transitory, which lends to the habit of rely too heavily on the stability of an entrenched General Manager.  For this reason they often don’t acquire depth of knowledge to create seamless and smooth transitions of authority.

Thus, these challenges had to be overcome:

  • Lewis B. was the manager-in-training and wanted a clear understanding of the Board’s expectations and how his performance would be measured;
  • The written GM job description on-record was over 15 years old;
  • The Board had no idea how the job description for the GM had evolved;
  • The Board didn’t have a handle on exactly what the GM did, much less how to prioritize efforts, measure performance, and set fair compensation.

Process & Results
Upon identifying the challenge at-hand, SEE Strategies led the agency through four strategy sessions, one with the compensation committee, then three with the full board. The discussions focused primarily on what role the general manager played in each of the District’s major areas of operation; organizing these roles into a logical and easily documented structure, identifying the general manager’s areas of responsibility and authority. Once this structure was agreed upon, the activities of the GM were then prioritized, and measurable performance mechanisms were introduced.

A primary evaluation tool that was implemented was the Balanced Scorecard, which is essentially a report card that can be used to measure overall performance, identify areas of strength and weakness, and provide the Board and Lewis, an assessment tool that will be used to improve performance. This approach enabled the District to achieve:

  • Improved internal communications;
  • Performance assessments with more accountability and consistency, and;
  • Create clear mutual expectations with their new General Manager.

The critical role SEE Strategies played was in compressing time for the client.  Due to SEE Strategies’s experience and time-tested process, the client smoothly navigated this succession in leadership while also instituting a logical structure that was easily integrated into their culture, and into every element of their business.

“Larry saved me a year’s salary with his knowledge, honesty, tools, and frank comments! It was a wonderful experience.”
---Fritz Durst, Board Chair, Reclamation District 108

 

 

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