BBG Watch Commentary
Jane Smith is one of our occasional anonymous contributors to BBG Watch from within the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency in charge of U.S. international broadcasting. She is reporting that the Voice of America (VOA) and the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) rank and file employees are visibly upset and angry with IBB Director Richard Lobo for his lack of leadership in the past and for appointing failed executives to lead the effort to improve employee morale. Not all, but most of them are the same IBB and VOA executives who have made the BBG one of the worst-managed federal agencies according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Employee Viewpoint Surveys.
Rank and file employees are not the only ones who are angry. Most members of the bipartisan BBG Board are equally upset with Director Lobo and his top deputies, sources close to the Board told BBG Watch. “Yes, they are stonewalling most things as the Board tries to force them to change,” was one comment.
Board members were so outraged by $8,000 bonuses IBB Director Lobo and VOA Director Ensor gave to their top aides in FY 2012 that they put a stop to all executive bonuses while the budget crisis continues.
Governors Susan McCue, Michael Meehan and Victor Ashe are now leading the effort to reform the administration of the agency, but according to our sources they are being constantly frustrated by IBB’s top executives.
The problem is not the survey results. The problem is the bloated bureaucracy.
Name: Jane Smith
Comment: Dear Mr. Lobo,
My last letter seemed to have some impact so I have decided to continue the correspondence. (Can I take some small credit for the end of the Florida booker?)
Please know that I write these letters with the best of intentions. There seems to be a deficit of truth-telling on the third floor and I want to help you overcome it.
Let’s start with the engagement plan. Unlike most of the third floor plans, plans that elicit a snort and a shrug, this plan engendered real, genuine anger. The sole repeatable word is “clueless,” the rest would not be published by this website. Obviously, given your commitment to improving the VOA environment, you want to know why the reception was so negative.
Failure of Concept and Failure of Execution
Failure of Concept – The problem is not the survey results. That is the symptom, not the disease. The problem is the bloated bureaucracy, gorging on the money, promoting themselves, adding layer upon layer, while being wildly misinformed about the needs of the services.
Middle management, the GS-13s and GS-14s, is not broken. Senior management, the GS15s and SES, is broken. Sitting in meetings, listening to their theoretical nonsense, divorced from the reality that some services can’t afford to buy basic equipment and POVs get paid one-hundred bucks for a full days’ work, often begging, begging, for batteries and pencils while the SESs in the IBB and ODDI fly around the word, plotting strategies for a future that never seems to arrive. THIS IS THE PROBLEM.
Repeat after me: the problem is not the survey results.
Your employees sat politely as you presented the new plan to change morale. They sat politely because they were waiting for the second half of your plan, the part where you explain how the 3rd floor will be reformed. How will the bureaucracy be trimmed? How will the IBB be reined in? How will the hallway of no jobs be dismantled? How will the corrupt hiring practices be reformed? When will those who have proven ineffective be stripped of power? When will the silos of power be crushed? When will the simple reality that not everyone can be the manager of other people be acknowledged?
Were you and David Ensor truly unaware of what your audience was waiting for?
Failure of Execution – You are not well-served by the minion who put together the group of engagement facilitators. It is a list of sycophants, a list of second-rate talents who, for the most part, are responsible for some of the most challenging problems facing this organization. That panel, assembled on the stage, made you look foolish.
When an employee questioned you in a reasonable and dispassionate manner, you became visibly angry. (Note to self: never, ever question publicly the third floor.) But, Dick, everyone agrees with the employee’s appraisal.
Both you and David Ensor need to stop listening to your staff directors and the other hangers-on. They have, for the most part, misled you with cherry-picked information, solidifying their grip on power and leaving you flailing in the dark.
Reform the third floor.
Defunct, Dick, Defunct: that is what the Secretary of State called the organization you lead.
Reform the third floor.
I will write again soon.