• WisBusiness

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New operational model will better serve Wisconsin DNR


By Cathy Stepp
Smart CEOs go to their employees for ideas on improving their business’ edge. The people doing the work done know where the roadblocks and slowdowns are.

It’s no different with government.

That’s why when I became Secretary of this agency, I went to our committed staff to find ways to improve DNR and to better support the needs of the people and business in the state while striving for more than minimal environmental compliance. The response was remarkable! The ideas I got showed a pattern of having to jump through hoops and scramble under bureaucratic fences to do jobs. No vehicles available to do inspections. Hundreds of pages of paperwork with no practical use. Workload imbalance. Service centers too often closed to the public.

The collective ideas pointed toward a new operating flexibility paradigm loosely called an enterprise agency.

The concept is simple. We fix what isn’t working for the citizens of the state and encourage what is. DNR is given more autonomy to hire employees and to purchase the tools needed to get work done efficiently. In return, DNR commits to ramped up goals: Improved service to our customers – such as developing simplified permit applications with clear requirements and predictable timelines. We streamline our operations and strive for utmost efficiency with our operational resources, including opening more service center hours and having vehicles to do our jobs. We maintain and enhance Wisconsin’s commitment to environmental excellence.

Using technology better will help. For example, we intend to use the Web to process and track permit applications and manage data. When DNR was created in 1967, punch cards were the computer tool of choice and the Internet didn’t exist. Our plan should unravel the decades of cobbled together and overlapping paper processes that are hobbling both our staff and businesses of the state.

Being designated as the state’s first enterprise agency is a signal of Gov. Walker’s confidence in DNR. But we have to perform. Wisconsin demands a clean environment, and nothing in our pilot allows DNR to back away from environmental standards. Indeed, by freeing our staff from redundant paperwork and obstacles, we hope to work with the public for even better environmental performance in Wisconsin and to plan for actions that will prevent natural resources damage from happening. We will put our staff out in the field working with the public to collaborate and assist, and to concentrate on this agency’s important mission.

The Wisconsin DNR enterprise agency concept is about creating efficiencies that save time and money for us and for you. It’s better customer service with less bureaucracy.

Environmentalists and the business community are keeping an eye on changes in DNR – and I welcome it. With this flexibility and quality of our employees, DNR will deliver. Watch us succeed.

-- Stepp is secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources.

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