Efficiency study identifies problems in Mandeville government

Recommends restructuring organization chart and procedures

Finds flaws in IT operations that put city at risk

MANDEVILLE — A recently released efficiency audit, commissioned by the city late last year, recommends sweeping changes to the city’s organization chart and department processes in a “rapid phased approach” as opposed to a chain of incremental adjustments over a longer period of time. The study also takes issue with how information technology services are handled by the city.

The Mandeville Efficiency Study, prepared by Pyramid Consulting, LLC, and published January 20th, was requested by at-the-time incoming Mayor Clay Madden and approved by the City Council.

Editor’s Note #1: We have chosen to provide reporting on the 2021 Mandeville Efficiency Study even though it was released in January, long before the Mandeville Daily began publication. This 2021 study has become part of the current story — having been mentioned as part of the official record both by council members and the public — regarding Mayor Clay Madden’s restructuring proposal, which is up for a vote at the April 22nd City Council meeting.

Editor’s Note #2: We will refer to the most recent “Mandeville Efficiency Study” as the “2021” study. However, it should be noted that this study was actually conducted in late 2020 immediately after Mayor Clay Madden took office and before any significant changes could take place. This study makes frequent reference to the “2010 City of Mandeville Operations Efficiency Study” which was actually published in early 2011. For purposes of clarity, this piece will refer to the most recent study as “the 2021 study” and the one conducted in 2010 as “the 2010 study.”

Restructuring organization and processes needed

The study recommends the organization chart and department processes for the city should be restructured, and done so together because they are so tightly integrated. A so-called “matrix” organizational structure for contract and program management should be adopted.

The study favors an upfront yet phased implementation of these changes instead of trickling them out over time. By announcing all the changes up front, the study suggests the city can deal with any blowback or issues all at once and then let the rollout proceed.

“Small adjustments to an organization chart actually take longer and are much more painful (emotionally and politically). Furthermore, a series of small changes keeps people in chaos… This is far more difficult for staff than one big change,” the report reads.

City lacks contract and program management

The study takes issue with how Mandeville manages programs and handles its contracts. It recommends establishing “management responsibility” for both programs and contracts.

This could be interpreted to mean creating new positions for each or both combined, or even assigning such responsibilities to existing staff. Both programs and contracts often span multiple departments.

Currently, Mandeville does not have a documented policy or procedure for managing programs. “… all projects are at best performed on an ad hoc basis and in many instances are not performed at all.”

As for contracts, the responsibility of initiating and approving contracts is split between the city attorney and purchasing; there is no structure in place to monitor the terms and fulfillment of contracts.

What’s more, the city has no formal documentation that follows the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s best practices recommendations for handling the life cycle of a contract, the study found.

Mandeville ranks lowest on CMMI scale

The study uses the Capability Maturity Model Integration scale for project management and contracting process areas developed at Carnegie Mellon University. It identifies Mandeville as being only at level one capability — “processes unpredictable, poorly controlled and reactive” — on the five-level scale, and that a “reasonable” target would be level two within two years.

Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process level improvement training and appraisal program. Administered by the CMMI Institute, a subsidiary of ISACA, it was developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).
Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) is a process level improvement training and appraisal program. Administered by the CMMI Institute, a subsidiary of ISACA, it was developed at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

The study identifies a number of operational “gaps” and lays much of the blame for Mandeville’s problems on poor structure, staffing deficiencies, and a lack of documented procedures. The study suggests these issues have led to poor morale and a lack of productivity, with the staff feeling generally overwhelmed.

Employee input shaped recommendations

These organizational recommendations were based largely on feedback from the workers themselves.

The authors of the study conducted employee surveys, interviewed department heads, and analyzed current operating procedures to paint a picture of how well Mandeville city government functions.

Small adjustments to an organization chart actually take longer and are much more painful (emotionally and politically).

— 2021 Mandeville Efficiency Study

Survey shows workers unhappy and not motivated

Of the 20 issues employees were asked about in the survey, being overworked, unhappiness and lack of motivation topped the list of problems, or “weaknesses.”

“People in the organization are happy and motivated” drew negative responses from 26 of the 38 workers completing the survey. “People are chronically overworked” also received 26 negative responses.

However, one of the more telling revelations was in what respondents identified as “strengths” in Mandeville’s organization.

Overwhelmingly, they believe they have the skills necessary to do their jobs, they know what those jobs are, and they’re producing quality work. Thirty of the 38 agreed that “Individuals have the skills and abilities to meet their assignments.” (See a complete table of responses at the end of this story.)

Focus groups reveal discontent with other areas

The authors of the study conducted five focus groups, whose purpose was to identify “opportunities for improvement.”

Participants told interviewers they needed better structure, better communication, better technology, better training, and enough people to handle the workload.

Department heads cite staffing levels, training

The heads of all five departments of the City of Mandeville – Finance, Planning, Public Works, Human Resources and Cultural Development – seemed to echo common themes or gripes at City Hall: the need for improved information technology as well as addressing staffing shortages.

An issue that was raised by the Human Resources director concerned the requirement that creating or changing civil service job descriptions (excluding police) requires that an ordinance be adopted by the City Council.

The study offered this as a possible explanation as to why department heads might be reluctant to update roles and responsibilities as changing times might demand.

Despite this, the authors of the study did find that overall job descriptions and job duties were well-maintained.

Lack of IT disaster plan raises red flags

Mandeville does not have an Information Technology department, and more importantly it does not have a “disaster recovery/business continuity plan,” which is a common term and best practice among organizations this size. Currently, IT is part of the Finance Department.

The 2010 City of Mandeville Operations Efficiency Study had recommended that a formal IT steering committee be established due to a lack of “formal IT governance process and communication forum between the various departments.”

The 2010 recommendations said that at a minimum the membership of such a committee should include the IT consultant, Finance Director, Public Works Director, Planning and Zoning Director and HR Director.

The city’s 2010 remediation response went so far as to set a timeline for the formation of the committee to be the second quarter of 2011. However, the 2021 report determined that as of today this committee does not exist and there are only annual budgeting discussions concerning IT with department directors.

Mandeville outsources much of its IT services. The 2021 report is critical of Mandeville’s practices in this area.

Background on Cyber Threats: A successful ransomware attack – where a bad actor tricks an employee into providing their internal network credentials – could potentially bring all electronic services to a halt. These attacks work by sending employees fake emails that look like legitimate communications from the IT staff or internal login screens. The unsuspecting user types in their password and then the entire network becomes compromised. It happens to companies all the time.

One of the primary recommendations of the 2021 study is to move to cloud-based services, which can offer some protection from attacks, but is no guarantee. It only ensures that if the organization is compromised, it would be possible to restore services, but not without potentially significant downtime.

No Internal Audit Program

Yet another issue the 2021 study identifies is that Mandeville still has no formal internal audit function, this despite the 2010 City of Mandeville Operations Efficiency Study recommendation that the city implement one.

The 2021 Mandeville Efficiency Study points out that even though there is an ordinance from 2008 (amended in 2010) that establishes an internal audit committee, no such committee exists today. The study concludes that this ordinance — 08-39 — is likely still active and enforceable should the current City Council wish to reactivate this internal audit committee.

The Mandeville Daily could not find record of the internal audit committee being codified. There is an existing “Financial Oversight Committee” in City Code Section 18, Article I, established in 2012 by Ordinance No. 12-20, but this does not appear to be the same committee referenced in the 2021 study.

Typically, after ordinances are passed, they are codified and placed into the city code, arranged by subject area. That does not appear to be the case with the internal audit committee.

Editor’s Note #3: Glen Runyon, the managing director of Pyramid Consulting, LLC, the firm that conducted the 2021 study, was appointed in 2009 to a seat on this very same internal audit committee, the Mandeville Daily has learned. (He also had applied to fill the post of interim mayor after the Eddie Price resignation in 2009, but Edward “Bubby” Lyons was picked for that five-month post instead.) This editor’s note is made as part of standard full disclosure to the reader.

Recommendations made to departments

The study makes numerous recommendations to policies and procedures relating to the Planning, Finance and Public Works departments.

Source: The Mandeville Efficiency Study, released January 20, 2021.

Related: Mayor requests, receives two weeks to tweak restructuring plan…

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Results of the employee survey conducted as part of the 2021 Mandeville Efficiency Study. The Weighted Average values are calculated by assigning 2 points fo 'Agree' and 'Disagree' and just 1 point to 'Somewhat Agree' and 'Somewhat Disagree' respectively. Each question is considered to be either negative or affirmative, resulting in the net negative or positive values in the right-hand column.
Results of the employee survey conducted as part of the 2021 Mandeville Efficiency Study. The Weighted Average values are calculated by assigning 2 points fo ‘Agree’ and ‘Disagree’ and just 1 point to ‘Somewhat Agree’ and ‘Somewhat Disagree’ respectively. Each question is considered to be either negative or affirmative, resulting in the net negative or positive values in the right-hand column.

3 thoughts on “Efficiency study identifies problems in Mandeville government

  1. I will be glad to share copies of the Internal Audit Ordinance 08-39 with the signatures of the Council Clerk and the Mayor. I have found several instances of other Ordinances that have not been “codified” in the official Code of Ordinances.

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