A highly decentralized department carries out Florida's right-of-way mission. The state is comprised of seven geographic districts and one turnpike district. The district offices have responsibility for all operational matters, as well as for the quality control of their processes. The eight district offices allow local governments and planning organizations to give direct input into agency operations.
The central office is responsible for policies, procedures, and quality assurance activities. The mission statement for the division is to acquire the right-of-ways necessary to support the Department's work program in a cost efficient, quality manner while ensuring that full compensation is paid for all property acquired. State law requires the department to develop a 5-year work program.
Florida is a production-oriented state that has conducted more than a billion dollars worth of construction lettings per year for the last 4-5 years. In fiscal year 1998, the department let a record $1.26 billion in contracts. Florida completes approximately 2,500-3,000 parcels annually, with direct expenditures averaging about $300 million a year. The right-of-way division has 522 positions, with approximately 480-490 employed at any given time.
FDOT is committed to performance excellence and customer service. Its web page notes, "Achieving a better quality of life for all citizens in the state of Florida must begin by ensuring that the principles of quality management become the foundation for the way we do business in all public and private enterprises." FDOT follows the Sterling Criteria for Organizational Performance Excellence as its quality management model, which is founded on the Baldrige model. The Sterling criteria model is an integrated set of basic values, requirements, and processes aimed at increasing customer value and organizational effectiveness. It is a self-assessment tool to help organizations determine their current capabilities, including their own strengths and needed improvement areas.
FDOT is highly committed to customer satisfaction and has an abundance of tools to maintain positive public relations. The ROW division produces a number of informational pamphlets and brochures for the public, as well as a monthly newsletter for its staff entitled, "Right of Way Newsletter." Brochures are available in English and Spanish versions and are used on all projects. The newsletter is published to provide information about current issues for all functional areas in ROW, to make employees aware of all upcoming training opportunities, and to announce employee promotions and accomplishments. The newsletter is also made available on the department's Infonet. In addition to this publication produced by the ROW office, FDOT has a monthly newsletter devoted only to quality issues. Called the "Focus on Quality", the newsletter includes a "Quality Corner" featuring a monthly series by FDOT managers on the Sterling quality criteria.
One recent area of public relation's focus for the department has been public meetings. FDOT has taken steps to enhance these meetings through improved community relations programming. Another area of special focus has been working directly with businesses. These clients have special needs not traditionally seen with residential clients. FDOT is working diligently to have a more effective role in communicating with businesses to make sure that they feel included in the process. The FDOT established a special committee with numerous private sector business groups to look at access-management issues as they affect businesses. The "Access Management and Community Awareness Procedures" were subsequently developed with input from numerous functional offices within FDOT, including the ROW office.
In FDOT, public relations efforts also focus on the department's own staff. FDOT has an employee recognition program for merit pay increase, one-time cash bonuses for sustained performance or special projects, and a special awards program for individual and team performance. Supervisors nominate employees for permanent pay increases and one-time cash bonuses, but any employee can nominate a colleague or team for the special award recognition. Awards include permanent salary increases, cash bonuses, plaques, savings bonds, and certificates of recognition. FDOT also participates in the annual Davis Productivity Award program. These are awards presented by a private-sector group to state government employees and teams for process improvements that lead to cost savings. ROW employees have received several such awards.
In the area of training, FDOT once again demonstrates outstanding performance. The training program includes new employees at the Real Estate II and III personnel classification levels. These classifications represent the vast majority of all ROW positions. The program, designed as an internship, allows the trainee to work with real-world situations using knowledge and skills introduced in a specially designed series of courses in the areas of appraisal and appraisal review, acquisition, relocation, negotiation, communication skills, and understanding maps and plans. Success in the program is based on the trainee's passing course examinations and on participating in on-the-job work units.
Efforts are made to align the type of work unit assigned with the type of course material covered during a particular segment. The training program is 2 years in length for Level
II and III programs and is mandatory for all new Level II employees. ROW trainees receive salary incentives for successful completion of four different segments, amounting to a 5-percent salary increase every 6 months.
Continuing professional training is also offered, as needed, to all ROW employees. FDOT has a statewide training task force that meets quarterly to address training issues. All FDOT district ROW offices are represented. Task force members and district managers make improvements and monitor continuing performance resulting from the training program. Trainee suggestions are formally sought through class evaluation forms. District offices are also formally surveyed to determine developing training needs. These suggestions are provided to the task force, which incorporates them into the training program.
FDOT offers a series of training programs:
Project management is carried out using a multidisciplinary project team approach that is being implemented through the district office. The organization felt that multidisciplinary teaming would alleviate a past lack of coordination and communication across functional areas. The ROW office has its own mission statement and goals that are aligned with the mission statement of the State department. The ROW director would like to see this activity filter downward, where each office or section would also have its own mission or goals aligned with the FDOT's mission and goals--broken down further by technical area of specialty.
The department produces a blended business plan incorporating the following: a traditional government strategic plan, an inception plan from a volunteer organization that identifies and clarifies how the unit's services are handled with its internal and external customers, and a private-sector financial plan. These three features were blended into a business plan presenting a unified understanding of the role of the entire department, given its decentralized governance structure. FDOT modifies this blended business plan to address resource commitment, including staff hours and scheduling dates for each activity and milestones throughout the highway development process. FDOT feels the blended business plan is a "living document" to be updated continually that identifies both short-term and long-term goals and accomplishments.
ROW participates in strategic planning through FDOT's 5-year plan, which is the work development process. This process includes an evaluation of ROW projects worked, the schedules for each project, the resources (staff and consultant manpower) needed, and the estimated cost of the ROW phases. The ROW division also participates in business planning, a 1-year production plan that establishes the projected performance of each district on an annual basis. Each of the district ROW managers provides an anticipated plan to the central office ROW managers for review.
In addition to the blended business plan, FDOT holds a number of strategic planning and project management meetings. FDOT's executive committee approves the long-range mission and goals incorporated in its 20/20 Plan (a long-range plan that looks at specific transportation needs 20 years into the future) and the agency's strategic plan. FDOT's secretary and executive committee meet monthly to evaluate progress toward achieving goals and performance standards. A production management meeting that includes the district production directors is held monthly to evaluate the district's progress on the plan. Additionally, the Florida Transportation Commission, as discussed earlier, formally monitors quarterly progress and reports to the governor and the legislature.
The central and district ROW managers meet 2-days each quarter with the ROW director for purposes of instruction, guidance, and business planning. Managers make numerous suggestions for process improvements that are implemented through procedural changes. These suggestions are formally tracked as action items on a ROW managers meeting matrix until corrected or implemented to the satisfaction of the central and district ROW managers.
FDOT also holds annual user meetings for all functional groups, where expertise and problem-solving activities take place. Each functional office within ROW (acquisition, relocation, and property management) holds quarterly or annual meetings, where employees make numerous suggestions for process improvements. This feedback is then developed into action items for address through procedural changes.
FDOT has developed a number of outstanding tools to assist with ROW activities, some of which have been mentioned in other sections of this State summary. FDOT has traditional production tools in place, such as e-mail, fax machines, training manuals, training conferences, advisory committees, and project teams. It also develops how-to-manuals and updates its ROW manual as needed. The budget tracking process has been improved with quarterly budget reports used by the department to evaluate its progress.
Numerous internal and external controls are in place in Florida and are key elements to successful implementation of ROW activities. Most importantly, checklists, time schedules, and standards for specific processes and procedures are all in place and readily available for staff use. These checklists and forms are constantly being refined to implement suggestions or requested changes from district offices, property owners, or other users. FDOT's procedure requires checklists and forms to be developed and incorporated as procedural attachments. All quality assurance reviews solicit suggestions for improvement of these forms and checklists. The QAR process also monitors the effectiveness of the ROW office's processes and provides input back to revise and improve existing procedures.
FDOT only recently began using external customer service surveys. A multi-year pilot project was conducted using such a survey in two district ROW offices. The results were reported at the central and district ROW manager meetings. The pilot project was deemed successful and the managers decided to extend the program statewide. FDOT seeks to maintain continuous communication between offices. While a formal internal customer service form has not been used between offices, State directors frequently send a representative to each other's statewide meetings to discuss problems and gain insight to jointly develop solutions on numerous issues.
The ROW manual and its procedures are updated as needed. However, a procedural review may be requested at any time. In addition, distribution of manuals is controlled to ensure that all manual holders receive updates. In November 1998, the central office ROW initiated an editorial format change to all procedures in the ROW manual to allow the entire document to be included in FDOT's internal computer database.
In addition to QAR activities, a series of audits are conducted to make sure that procedures and processes comply with agency directives. An audit plan is developed annually by FDOT's inspector general following receipt of input from all offices. The ROW has the opportunity to nominate topics for the audit plan, or the inspector general may select such topics based upon his or her understanding of program operations.
FDOT's database, the right-of-way control (RWC) system, tracks by parcel, as well as by functional unit. The system is useful, though it was created in the early 1980s and is ready for an update. To address concerns, a work group was formed to examine communications issues and redefine the process of developing projects through the planning and environmental management sections of the agency to promote a seamless process. The planning and environmental management offices (PLEMO) were tasked with this responsibility. The statewide PLEMO team meets regularly and has recommended process changes, which the executive committee approved.
Performance indices in Florida are well developed and regularly monitored. FDOT has performance indicator data from 1994. Data are used to evaluate whether existing processes provide Florida with the means necessary to meet its overall budget and customer satisfaction goals. Performance indices are based upon measurable processes and are compared against the proposed business plan.
Florida's ROW director, Mr. Ken Towcimak, has been involved in two strategic planning sessions over the past several months. According to Mr. Towcimak, FDOT's ROW division has its own mission statement that compliments FDOT's overall mission. He would like to see missions and goals developed for the functional workgroups within the ROW division as well. Finally, Mr. Towcimak shared that FDOT's senior management, through the executive committee, is committed to strategic quality management throughout the organization. That commitment has had a significant impact on long-term quality increases within the ROW division, as well as other divisions within FDOT.