This Is What I’m Hearing

When I took on the role of Ombudsman for the team, I heard everything from, “You’re going to get an earful!” to “No one ever says much.” I found just the opposite – of both. Whether through an anonymous email, a private phone call or a casual conversation at a training, I heard team members offering thoughtful observations, asking insightful questions, extending praise and challenging the status quo with the goal of making us an overall better team.

A few themes came out of all the feedback: Team members want to have a better understanding of what the organization’s staff is doing (communication); team members want to know the rules of the road (standard operating procedures); and, team members want to consistently strengthen the team’s expertise and experience (proficiency). These themes fit very well with the feedback team members offered through the team survey conducted in the spring of 2011. At that time, team members offered 83 suggestions through the comments section. The command staff reviewed each one and 41 were accepted and put into motion. Another 27 were considered and put into the “maybe” category for further consideration, and 16 suggestions were rejected for various reasons. I was pleasantly surprised by the data. I had no idea what had been done with the survey results and was happy to see that so much of the information was put into action. That’s my goal as Ombudsman—gathering feedback from team members and putting good ideas into action with the Command Staff.

The command staff just held its annual strategic planning session in September for the coming year. We spent six hours one Saturday, as well as another evening meeting, discussing everything from the primary mission focus for 2013 to reviewing the organization’s staffing to combing through the 2013 budget line by line to ensure every dollar is spent wisely. As Ombudsman, I took the opportunity to make sure that all the valuable feedback I have heard from team members over the last six months – the insightful observations and the challenging questions – were a part of the discussion. Here are a few of the ways your feedback shaped the Command Staff’s strategic plan for 2013:

• Team meetings will be reorganized to provide more relevant and valuable information to team members, including an ongoing review of strategic projects.
• A condensed team meeting, held at the beginning of our monthly full-team training, will be reintroduced.
• Monthly Command Staff highlights will be posted to the team website and communicated to the team at large – probably through the Callout or team website.
• A Feedback Committee will be formed to collect, review, and present feedback to Bob Nelson, the Office of the Sheriff’s organizational consultant.
• And, we will conduct another team member survey in the spring.

Standard Operating Procedures
The started but stalled SOP project will be dusted off and re-invigorated with a goal of posting high-level SOPs for key business areas within the team.

We cannot succeed in our core mission if we do not have the core skills and this is reflected in the Command Staff’s attention to our proficiency. A large portion of the strategic planning session was dedicated to identifying and prioritizing the key objectives for 2013 – all related to our team’s proficiency in searching. The five objectives for 2013 will be 1) search management; 2) medical; 3) USAR integration (disaster response) 4) snow and ice; and 5) processes and systems.

Across the board, the staff is cataloging our team’s skillsets. CoSoSAR has developed an extensive database for all team member’s certifications and fulfillment of type-specific requirements. In the coming year, the staff hope to transition the manual database to an integrated, Office of the Sheriff-supported database for all volunteer departments. This transition will allow the command staff to continue to ensure that all team members have the expertise and physical training to perform our core mission.

I think you’ll agree that there are many areas in which you had direct influence on the priorities set for the coming year. Thank you for sharing your suggestions with me, and giving the Command Staff the opportunity to know what you are thinking. While we will never be able to accommodate every suggestion, many of the best ideas come from you. Please keep them coming. Email or call me anytime. My contact information is listed on our phone roster. If you prefer anonymity, feel free to use the feedback box within the members section of our website.