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Friday Afternoon Massacre at DEP

Martin’s Management Mishmash Recalls Nixon’s “Madman Theory”

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin

While you won’t read about this in the newspapers, nonetheless, on Friday, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin invoked a fundamental strategy of the media damage control playbook: put out the bad news late Friday to minimize coverage.

In a Nov. 5, 3:25 pm email, Martin announced his long awaited management “transformation” to the DEP Friday skeleton crew. DEP was cutback to a 35 hour workweek [by Whitman, see comment] and so not many staffers show up on Fridays. See below for complete Martin text.

How would industry analysts respond to a corporate “transformation” dictated by a pharmaceutical CEO – who had no drug industry experience and was installed in the wake of a hostile takeover?

How would the CEO’s plan be received if it: randomly installed a 25+ year veteran marketing director as head of research; moved the experienced research director to the accounting office; transferred the leader of engineering to the sales Division; and reassigned the head of sales to be in charge of manufacturing (all this, while completely eliminating the management positions of major Divisions and appointing a set of cronies as policy makers?).

What would analysts make of that???

Would such a drastic random move positively impact company operations and productivity??? Would it be perceived as an effort to laterally transfer and promote from within to reform the Company, or as sabotage?

I had to sleep on it for 2 nights before I could conjure up an apt metaphor to describe Martin’s actions.

I initially was reminded of a cruel older cousin of mine, who regularly tormented me as a kid. One day, he asked if I wanted to play cards. Of course I agreed. He then asked if I wanted to play “52 pickup”. I said sure, at which point he threw the deck of cards into the air and shouted: “there’s 52, now you pick them up”.

While Martin’s “reorganization” surely shares aspects of “52 pickup”, I rejected that metaphor as too personal and something not well known.

I then thought of using the St. Valentines Day massacre, but rejected it because nobody at DEP actually got killed (although people may die as a result).

I considered and rejected “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic” as ill fitting because the Captain (Martin) himself is sinking the ship, this ship isn’t sinking due to design flaw and accidental iceberg strike. I similarly rejected Soviet Gulags, as over the top, because while Martin surely is sending some DEP managers to a form of Siberia in the practice of political repression, he’s following Christie’s Orders not Stalin’s.

I also rejected the well fitting phrases “monkeywrenching” and “body on the wheels” because these were terms used by radicals I support. But I do agree that Governor Christie, Commissioner Martin, and their industy backers perversely share Savio’s views, e.g. that “the operation of DEP has become so odious”  that they are trying “to make it stop” so that they can pursue unregulated freedom to profit at the public’s expense:

“There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious ”makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.

So I settled on the “Nixon Madman Theory“.

The Madman theory was part of Nixon’s foreign policy. His administration attempted to make the leaders of other countries think Nixon was mad, and that his behavior was irrational and volatile. This included putting nuclear bombers in flight on highest alert. Fearing an unpredictable American response, leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations would avoid provoking him. Nixon famously explained his theory to White House Chief of Staff HR Haldeman:

“I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button’ — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”[1]The administration employed the “Madman strategy” (as it was later dubbed by Haldeman) to force the North Vietnamese government to negotiate a peace to end the Vietnam War.[3] Along the same lines, American diplomats (Henry Kissinger in particular) portrayed the 1970 incursion into Cambodia as a symptom of Nixon’s supposed instability.[4]

On October 1969, the Nixon administration indicated to the Soviet Union that “the madman was loose” when the United States military was ordered to full global war readiness alert (unbeknownst to the majority of the American population), and bombers armed with thermonuclear weapons flew patterns near the Soviet border for three consecutive days.[2]The madman strategy can be related to Niccola² Machiavelli, who, in his Discourses on Livy (book 3, chapter 2) discusses how it is at times “a very wise thing to simulate madness”. The logic behind the strategy is commonly attributed to Thomas Schelling, whose books The Strategy of Conflict and Arms and Influence discuss “the rationality of irrationality” and how useful “the threat that leaves something to chance” can be.

Below, is a link to Martin’s Reorganization email –  I know many of the people affected by it, so will refrain from analysis to avoid targeting individuals.

However, aside from the lack of any logic and madman nature of the move (e.g. to reward yes men and intimidate critics), I must mention that it is more evidence of:

Here it is: DEP Transformation Update.doc – sorry to have to post full text, I can’t get a link to work:

From: Bob Martin
To: Martin, Bob
Date: 11/5/2010 3:25:53 PM
Subject:Transformation Update

All Staff:

This past spring I told you about my transformation agenda for the Department. During the summer you participated in transformation sessions, and we released the Vision and Priorities documents to make sure that everyone-inside and outside the Department-knows where we are focusing our efforts and resources. In October we began ongoing customer service training, aiming to operate more effectively by being more responsive to all of our stakeholders and constituents. Throughout, we have asked for and continue to ask for your input.

The next component of transformation is maximizing the effectiveness of our management team.

Deputy Commissioner Kropp, the Assistant Commissioners and I have been working together to identify the best posts for our managers, and today we are announcing some moves to enhance and strengthen our operations. More details are below. We anticipate additional future moves as part of the ongoing process of transformation, and continue to solicit interest in lateral mobility from all staff and managers (details on our intranet at http://dep-inet2.dep.state.nj.us/lateralmobility/).

As I have said, the Governor and I have already received positive feedback from individual stakeholders and members of the general public, recognizing improved efficiency in their interactions with the Department. Yet, we have much more to do, and this repositioning of managers is a significant step toward achieving greater efficiencies with existing resources.

As we continue efforts to enhance our ability to protect the environment and serve all the residents of New Jersey, as well as to transform the DEP into a model agency for the state and the nation, I thank you for your continued involvement and commitment to transformation.

Bob Martin

# # #

Natural and Historic Resources

Lou Valente was recently appointed as Chief Project Advisor to the Commissioner to develop a strategic plan for the long-term fiscal sustainability of DEP’s natural and historic resource programs. As part of this process, Lou will be visiting field locations to see first-hand our operations and to seek input on revenue generating opportunities for specific areas.

Lynn Fleming will serve as Assistant Director of the State Forestry Service. Lynn helped lead the State Park Service during several difficult budget cycles, and she brings with her a wealth of knowledge and expertise in land management operations and forest stewardship. Under Assistant Director Fleming, the Office of Natural Lands Management will be reassigned to the State Forestry Program to better align stewardship planning initiatives within the Division of Parks and Forestry.

John Trontis also recently joined DEP, as Assistant Director of the State Park Service. As former director of Hunterdon County Parks, John has a strong background in parks management, volunteerism and an exemplary commitment to natural and historic resources.

Land Use Management

Mark Pedersen will move from Site Remediation to lead the Division of Land Use Regulation. Mark brings to this position over 25 years of diverse experience within DEP. Most recently, Mark served as a Bureau Chief in Site Remediation, and has been a leading change agent in process improvements and transformation in that program.

Tom Micai will serve as Director of the newly consolidated Division of Policy and Planning within Land Use Management. Tom will oversee an expanded focus on transformation through regulatory review and development informed by science and planning.

Rob Piel will move into the Division of Policy and Planning as an Assistant Director. In addition to regulatory policy initiatives, Rob also will oversee a newly consolidated Coastal Zone Management Program that combines federal and state planning initiatives.

Elizabeth Semple’s leadership role within the Division of Policy and Planning will be expanded to include both broad State Planning efforts and oversight of a consolidated Water Quality Management Planning group.

Ruth Ehinger, who has served as the State’s Coastal Manager as well as in various capacities throughout her 30-year career at DEP will move into the newly created Office of Ecological Restoration within Fish and Wildlife.

Water Resource Management

Michele Putnam will be moving from Director of the Division of Water Supply to become Director of the Division of Water Quality, overseeing all water pollution issues including NJPDES and municipal finance. Gene Chebra will manage municipal finance within the Division of Water Quality.

With Michele’s departure, Fred Sickels will lead the Division of Water Supply, which includes among other programs safe drinking water, water allocation and well permitting. Karen Fell will manage Water Supply Operations, with responsibility for all aspects of safe drinking water aside from permitting.

Jill Lipoti, who has served as the Director of the Environmental Safety and Health, is moving to Water Resource Management to head up the Water Monitoring and Standards program. Jill brings strong scientific background and expertise, and will provide a new look to program tasks. Leslie McGeorge will remain in the Division of Water Supply with responsibility for operations within Water Monitoring and Standards.

Al Korndoerfer, Stan Cach, Jeff Reading and Richard Dalton will be responsible for high level special projects to support Water Resource Management’s research priorities and ongoing transformation.

Climate and Environmental Management

With Jill Lipoti’s departure, Paul Baldauf will lead the Division of Environmental Safety and Health. Paul’s experience with homeland security issues and broad understanding of environmental regulations provides him with the necessary background and experience to provide oversight of the programs with DESH as the Department’s transformation proceeds.

Site Remediation

Two divisions are being established within Site Remediation: the Division of Responsible Party Case Management will be directed by Ken Kloo, and the Division of Publicly Funded Site Remediation will be directed by Tony Farro. Ken and Tony have demonstrated records as change agents within SRP, and will be able to implement the transformation goals within each of these newly established divisions and their respective programs.

Compliance & Enforcement

John Castner will head DEP’s County Environmental, Solid Waste and Pesticide Enforcement Programs. Included in this structure are the Bureau of Local Environmental Management under the management of Trish Conti; the Bureau of Solid Waste C&E managed by Debbie Pinto; the Bureau of Pesticide Compliance managed by John Orrok; and Minor Air Sources supervised by Tom Morris. John Castner also will be developing a pilot program that reviews incoming incidents and citizen complaints to examine how we are currently handling these notifications and identify where improvements can be made to ensure more timely responses.

Marcedius Jameson will head the newly combined Water and Land Use Enforcement programs. Marcedius will move to consolidate the two programs into one that takes a broader, watershed approach to dealing with impaired waters throughout the State. Rai Belonzi will take over the Central Bureau of Water C&E.

Ed Choromanski will head up the newly combined Air and Hazardous Materials Enforcement program, which will keep all three air regional offices and add the Bureau of Hazardous Waste C&E that now includes the UST C&E program. The Bureau of Hazardous Waste C&E will also add hazardous waste manifesting, biennial reporting and medical waste registration programs under Michael Hastry. Chris Odgers will manage the Air Central Region bureau. Ed will look to streamline the inspection processes at industrial and commercial sites with an emphasis on identifying and addressing the greatest hazards.

To create greater efficiencies, multiple licensing programs will be combined within C&E. Among these are Pesticide Operations; Solid & Hazardous Waste Transporter Licensing; and Exams & Licensing, which includes Water/Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators, Well Drillers and UST Certifications and Landscape Irrigation Contractors. The newly combined
licensing programs will be led by Jim Hamilton with the assistance of Charles Maack.

Knute Jensen will head C&E’s Office of Innovation and will take a leading role in transformation projects throughout C&E.
# # #

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  1. November 7th, 2010 at 16:13 | #1

    Bill: Actually, state workers were reduced to a 35 hour week by Christie Whitman so that she could reduce payroll across the board without layoffs. The work week has been 35 hours ever since. Staff have been permitted for years to compress their work week into four days or to spread the 70 hour pay period of two weeks over a two week period to have either one day off per week or one day off per two weeks under the “Alternate Work Week”. This program allows staff to arrange their schedule to accomodate child care, avoid traffic jams during rush hour, commute fewer days (thus saving commuting cost and air pollution), arranging for advanced education, etc. This means that if someone is working a four day work week, they work three 9 hour days and one 8 hour day. All holidays are only 7 hours, however, as that was the end result of Whitman’s 35 hr work week: a 7 hour work day. The result was that some would use 2 hours of vacation on holidays and then have only three days of work during a holiday week. The powers that be didn’t like that so during the past year, mgmt mandated that during the week of a holiday, state employees must still report to work for four days instead of using leave time to supplement the 7 hour holiday. However, there was a skeleton crew this past Friday because some chose to use leave time for Friday. Also, flex time means that a lot of the staff are at work at 7 am and were gone for the day by the time the email was sent to staff.

  2. November 7th, 2010 at 16:47 | #2

    @Hal O’Wean

    Thanks Hal – but read the post carefully: I do NOT say that Christie/Martin dictated the 35 hour work week.

    I am very aware that Whitman did that – as one of the gfew who fought her DEP budget cuts and other measures at the time.

    But for those not familar with this history, you comment can clarify andf misunderstanding I may have inadvertly created.

  3. Harry Schwartz
    November 7th, 2010 at 21:54 | #3

    I work for the DEP and read Comm. Martin’s email ~4 pm on Friday. Your analogy about the pharmaceutical CEO’s mgmt “transformation” describes the situation perfectly. I work for one of the program’s affected by this mgmt upheaval. I will not deny that there could definitely be changes w/in the DEP to make the org run better and more efficiently. But moving managers who are very knowledgeable and dedicated to a program (some of which require very specific knowledge, talents or abilities) and moving them somewhere completely new, and asking them to try to efficiently and effectively operate that new program, is destined for failure. And it’s only going to make the DEP look worse and in need of more drastic changes.

  4. November 7th, 2010 at 22:07 | #4

    @Harry Schwartz
    Thanks you very much Harry –

    Please forward – anonymoulsy and in strictest confidence – some examples we can share with the public, media, and legislators. Send to:

    PO Box 112
    Ringoes, NJ 08551

    Or you can call me at 609-397-4861 and I can help, including filing OPRA public records requests to support the argument.

  5. November 7th, 2010 at 22:41 | #5

    I meant to include the fact that this past week was a “holiday” or 7-hour-a-day week because Election Day was a holiday for state workers (the rationale being that we are available to work the polls). Therefore, people starting work at 8 am or 8:30 am would be done by 4pm. I find it hard to believe that Deputy Commissioner Irene Kropp, a @ 30 year DEP veteran, would not know that most people would not be at the office at 4pm on a Friday during a holiday week.

  6. January 15th, 2012 at 11:56 | #6

    I think this is a real great article.Thanks Again. Really Cool.

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