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Right of Way Quality Managment System - The Journey of Five States

Where Do They Go From Here

These five states shared their quality management systems with the FHWA in an effort to communicate the lessons learned as well as the benefits gained during their system development and implementation. The surveys and quality evaluations of these states reinforced the existence of several unique key elements, on which the design and implementation of each agency's management system depends--specifically their mission and objectives. This finding emphasizes the need for each state agency to take its own unique approach to a quality management system.

Florida

FDOT's management system is fully implemented, with many excellent performance measures that illustrate that quality management systems work. Florida, like Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Oregon, also has multidisciplinary project management and a project-driven system. Florida has an excellent mandatory employee training program that covers all functional areas and requires a 2-year employee commitment to complete 4 segments of 6 months each. Florida has quality teams for each and every discipline, including the training team, which meets quarterly.

Louisiana

LADOTD has made progress in its evaluation process and is well on its way to program implementation. Louisiana's management system reflects an understanding of the importance of multidisciplinary teamwork and communication to a service organization. LADOTD understands that quality is a neverending process and, consequently, has completed quality assurance audits of its 5 districts each year for the last 5 years. These audits have helped Louisiana to carefully evaluate processes across the districts, resulting in 30-50 process improvements. Newly acquired production tools will pave the way for an automation phase using a new computer system and database. Louisiana evaluates service performance indicators on a quarterly basis using appropriate statistical methods, and shares this information throughout the entire agency. The agency's philosophy guides its project-driven approach of "One team united towards its Mission."

Oregon

Oregon's management system is completely implemented. Like Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Florida, Oregon has adapted a multidisciplinary project management approach and a project-driven system. Oregon has achieved a truly motivational and enthusiastic work environment, with excellent production and communication tools and a management that understands its employees' needs. The management team has put systems in place based on appropriate process evaluation and needs assessment methods.

ODOT has an excellent training program. The agency has designed many courses, but one course in particular has really made a quality impact. This 1-week course called the Project Leader Academy involves cross-functional and multidisciplinary training for project leaders. The management team has successfully helped employees make the journey into quality project management and the project-driven atmosphere has broken down the communication barriers between the design division, the ROW division, and the construction division. ROW now serves as a technical branch for the design and construction divisions.

ODOT is on its second database. Called RAIN, this database is widely accepted by all. The agency uses both internal and external surveys as performance measures and is focused on client as well as employee satisfaction. Quality circle teams such as the relocation group and the newly formed appraisal group are in place. ODOT is well into strategic planning through its goal-setting activities, determining methods of reaching goals, scheduling necessary resources, establishing performance measures, reviewing performance against goals, and providing employee enrichment opportunities.

Pennsylvania

PennDOT might be classified as being in the strategic planning stage. PennDOT began its quality journey by adapting the Edosomwan-Baldrige-based assessment tool® in 1995 and has made tremendous progress since then with system development milestones. First PennDOT developed an excellent training program, a training database, an award-winning ECMS, as well as excellent program manuals. It has also developed many good production tools, such as newsletters, organizational climate surveys, process maps, and award-winning quality workgroups. PennDOT is embracing the needs assessment approach and conducting gap closure activities.

Wisconsin

WisDOT has excellent systems in place and is now evaluating how to appropriately measure its system performance. The agency just completed a process yielding a system of 10 performance indicators to drive process improvement. Now, as with any new measurement, comes the pilot study test to determine success. Additionally, Wisconsin has implemented a database called READS, being used statewide. Like Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Florida, Wisconsin has incorporated a QAR process. While it has completed several reviews, it is still in the pilot phase of quality auditing.

Benefits Realized from their Quality Management Systems

In summarizing each State's key elements and practices with regard to their management systems, certain benefits and costs have been realized. Pennsylvania's projected long-term cost savings using a quality management system was approximately $255 million. The benefits realized from incorporating a quality management system are a motivational work environment for employees, a quality project delivered on time and within budget, and highly satisfied clients

Lessons Learned During the Quality Management Journey

Quality management is a continuous process that requires commitment from everyone involved. Implementation of a management system will bring some skepticism and resistance. It is optimistic to believe that all employees will embrace the change that comes with incorporating a quality management process, but there are ways to make the transition smoother.

It is wise to anticipate mixed emotions. For example, some employees will think that their new database is unuseable because it was not developed by them or with their needs in mind. Some employees may complain that management is establishing performance measures to waste time, or that management is still signing off on appraisal waivers because it has to keep control and does not trust anyone else. Some agencies might be fearful of sending out client survey forms, thinking that "what you don't know can't hurt you." Some employees will insist that quality audits are conducted to cause them personal grief or because someone thinks they generally do a poor job.

It is only natural to have a few slips, trips, and falls while traveling down the quality management path, particularly with a process that is always evolving.

Ideas Are Unlimited

As part of the evaluation process, QEPI personnel asked this question, "If you had a wish list that was not limited by a rule, regulation, law, or act, what would you change to make your job easier or to improve your processes?" This question sought to get the best minds of ROW to share their ideas and aspirations, to elicit information about the problems that they were experiencing and about how they would mitigate those problems if the sky were the limit. All of the "wishes" from each State were then summarized in a table and used to identify common issues across all five States, (See table 1 on page XX).

The wish list varied according to who responded. Wishes of employees and supervisors differed from those of the ROW director. Surprisingly, no common wish list items went across all five states, although five wish list items were mentioned by four States as follows:

  1. Tailored training on processes and laws and cross-training for ROW Staff;
  2. More inclusive and fairer recruitment and career path practices;
  3. Updated computer resources;
  4. Legislative relief on process, fees, and/or cost; and
  5. State-specific issues addressing access management practices, outdoor advertising, environmental issues, and amount of appraisal waiver (nominal) limit.

Other items that 3 of 5 states believed were important for their wish lists included increasing participation across group and department boundaries, conducting process reviews of ROW, revising training manuals or drafting new ones and allowing additional project lead time for ROW.

Communication

This section will share the knowledge and lessons from these agencies' experiences relative to communication issues. Wisconsin is focused on increasing participation across group and department boundaries. The traditional avenues of voice mail, e-mail, electronic memo, or facsimile could be complemented with cross-functional work groups as in Oregon, Florida, Louisiana, or Pennsylvania. Involvement in multi-disciplinary work groups provides opportunities for direct and candid communication with internal clients. Florida, Oregon, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania are good models for sharing access to ROW database systems with all of DOT, therefore giving other service areas a greater understanding of ROW job responsibilities. Multidisciplinary training can improve communication. Piloting a multi-disciplinary project leader's course similar to Oregon's or submitting internal client survey forms to the other discipline areas within the agency can elicit good feedback. The pilot study on the project management approach to multidisciplinary teaming in Wisconsin's District 4 could be evaluated for possible incorporation into other districts within Wisconsin.

Employee Recruitment

Another wish listed by four of the five states is for fair recruitment and career path practices. This is a potentially sensitive issue. With the Federal and State laws addressing equal rights and non-discriminatory hiring practices, States may want to revise their personnel descriptions.

Some employees felt professional engineers were promoted up the career ladder before any other position, a practice based on position and not skills, that top management within DOT should evaluate. This perception, whether fact or fiction, may lead to employee morale problems, which lead to quality management problems.

State-Specific and Legislative Issues Among the States

All employees need the proper tools to perform a quality service. These may include updated computers, updated programs, sufficient computer training, and access to computer support staff. Every state except Louisiana discussed State-specific process issues. Oregon felt it was important to address complaints about access management raised by a group called Businesses in the Legislature. Florida addressed these access issues by forming an access management review committee composed of high-level managers who meet to mitigate access problems. These committee members have the authority to make immediate decisions. Florida has a well-defined access management

law that mandates the decision-making process. Businesses were complaining that ROW did not involve them in the overall highway development process, crippling their business during construction. FDOT is improving signage and access that provides the route to businesses during construction. The Florida legislature passed a bill to allow the DOT to provide loan guaranties to businesses impacted by a project.

Florida would also like to evaluate a more effective way to communicate with businesses to counter the perception that highway construction drives out some businesses. Whether or not this perception is real, these businesses might claim damages as a result of the construction phase. Wisconsin addressed this concern by creating a special information packet designed specifically for businesses to help them thrive during the construction. It includes a workbook, case studies of how other businesses handled this issue, and sample news articles and press releases. The packet also includes an informational videotape titled, "In This Together."

Louisiana included on its wish list that all Federal reimbursement of State expenditures be based on State law. The Federal Uniform Act does not treat businesses the same as it treats residential properties, nor does it compensate them. Residential property owners have the right to be placed into like housing based on the general market value, whereas business owners are not compensated with like businesses. This is an issue that the Louisiana community is working on changing.

Updated: 04/02/2013
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