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NEWS+ANALYSIS Public Rebuilding Service

July 15th, 2004 by admin

By Shawn Zeller Government Executive July 15, 2004

Full Story:

ProOrbis worked with the Public Building Service for a transformation of its operations.

Public Buildings Service chief Joe Moravec drops a bomb, then reshapes an organization.

Every day when federal employees come to work, they rely on Joe Moravec. As commissioner of the Public Buildings Service – a unit of the General Services Administration – Moravec is in charge of managing more than 330 million square feet of federal office space in more than 8,000 public and leased buildings that accommodate more than 1 million federal workers. But he sees his job as something even larger: “We aren’t in the business of owning and managing buildings,” he says. “We are in the business of supporting agencies’ missions.”

That may sound like feel-good management talk. But the headquarters staff of the Public Buildings Service is feeling it in a much more real, and not necessarily pleasant, way. Two years ago, Moravec, a cadre of Senior Executive Service employees and management consultants at the Delaware-based firm ProOrbis began to deconstruct exactly what it is the buildings service does. Then they hit the staff with a bombshell: Everyone at headquarters would have to reapply for new jobs within the redesigned organization.

“We’re in effect rehiring them into this new organization,” says Moravec. “And if we can’t fill the jobs in-house, we’ll go out.”

The goal, Moravec says, is to reorient the buildings service from the reactive property management organization it has always been into an all-purpose provider to federal agencies. If all goes according to plan, the organization no longer will simply react to requests for office space, but will help agencies think about how best to house and equip their workers to maximize productivity. “If an agency came to us and said we need 10,000 square feet in Dubuque, we were pretty good at getting that for them,” says Moravec. “But we looked at that and thought, ‘Is just responding enough?’ We decided, ‘No, it wasn’t.’ ”

Moravec determined that he couldn’t achieve his objective without a wholesale redesign, starting from the top. The SES-level employees went through the process last October, and the reshuffling was substantial. Some former office directors, for example, were asked to take deputy roles. The GS-15s followed in January; the GS-14s in May, and now the GS-13s and 12s are applying for new posts. Employees are dusting off résumés that haven’t seen daylight in years, sometimes decades. St. Louis consulting firm EASIConsult helped design the new job descriptions.

The underlying theme of the restructuring is customer service. The redesigned buildings service has, for the first time, an Office of National Customer Service Management whose charge is to reach out to agency customers and engage them in thinking about how best to house their workers. “Our customers’ needs are much more dramatic and dynamic than just [office] space,” says Paul Lynch, a 30-year buildings service veteran and assistant commissioner for the new Office of Organizational Resources. “It may be at a workstation at home. It may be at a telecommuting center.”

The new Office of Applied Science, meanwhile, will examine best practices in property management and ensure that the agency’s front-line workers know about them. “We’re an organization that learns the same thing a dozen times every day, but we haven’t been very good” at capturing that knowledge, Moravec says.

Moravec isn’t pulling punches about the necessity for the shake-up. And unlike the personnel changes under way at the Defense and Homeland Security departments, Moravec proudly notes that he is using only management authorities that already exist within civil service rules. He sought no additional authority from Congress, as DHS and Defense did. Much of what he’s doing, he says, is based on his years of experience managing commercial real estate. Before coming to the buildings service, he was an adviser to Joel Trachtenberg, president of The George Washington University. Prior to that, he ran several real estate firms.



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