This article describes the development and delivery of a comprehensive

management training program in Gallatin County,

Montana. The author developed the curriculum and served as

the lead facilitator for the course. In addition to describing all

phases of the development and delivery of the program, the article includes

brief summaries of each of the sixteen topics covered in the course.

Early in my tenure as Gallatin Countys administrator, I recognized

that professional development for staff members at all levels of the organization,

especially in areas broadly related to public management, was

lacking. Many of Gallatin Countys 460 employees were participating in

technical training related to their disciplines, and some compliance training

was provided for groups of staff members. An orientation program

was delivered to all new employees, offering them an overview of county

policies, organizational structure, benefits, and procedures. However,

a systematic training program in public management practices of importance

to all county departments was lacking.

Similar to most units of general local government, Gallatin County

has a number of departments that provide specialized functions. The

county administrator oversees most of them, while others report to elected

officials, including the county sheriff, clerk and recorder, auditor, treasurer,

and superintendent of schools. In addition, the county has several

entities directed by appointed boards as well as a few areas of responsibilityshared with the state of Montana. As a result, organizational

dynamics are complex and shared definitions of goals,

best management practices, and accountability have

been elusive.

Gallatin County has averaged 3.4 percent growth annually

over the last ten years. Consequently, the demand

on county government resources has increased dramatically,

and the size of the organization has also increased

significantly. Improvements in organizational communication

failed to keep pace with the needs of a growing

organization, periodic conflicts arose, and a number of departments

became increasingly isolated.

Although training is not a universal remedy for the

growing pains of local governments, a well-conceived professional

development program can have a catalyzing effect

as a component of the organizational change process. Some

of the objectives of our program included providing Gallatin

County managers with a broad overview of contemporary

management techniques, creating a common

frame of reference, and increasing understanding of personnel

practices and of the legal and statutory environment

in which they work. Although idea sharing, networking,

and building esprit de corps were not overlooked

as potential program benefits, their impact was far

greater than expected. Participants were uniformly positive

about the program overall and voiced great enthusiasm

concerning the benefits of becoming better acquainted

with their peers, identifying practical solutions

to common problems, and refining their mutual understanding

of the political-administrative landscape of Gallatin


Program Development

The first phase of program development entailed informally

surveying county managers about their needs and

preferences with respect to a relatively comprehensive training

program. We also needed to determine whether the

idea of conducting such a program would be generally

accepted. Suggestions for course topics were made, and

a preliminary outline was vetted with county department

directors. From this preliminary affirmation of the course

content, the lengthy and laborious process of compiling

the course material began.

Compiling and distilling information took nearly six

months and several hundred hours of labor. In addition to

the county administrator, the human resources (HR) director,

chief deputy attorney, a safety expert from the countys

insurance carrier, and a representative of Montana State

Universitys Local Government Center contributed to program

development. The product was a draft participant guide,

comprising sixteen chapters, including ninety-three pages

of original material, various articles, appendixes, and a bibliography.

After the assistant to the county administrator

edited the draft, it went to Training Solutions Plus in Manassas,

Virginia, for curriculum design services, and subsequent

production was performed in-house. Table 1 lists the

topics covered during the ten sessions of the Management

and Supervision Course.

Program Content

The course was intended simply as an introduction

to the topics, and some participants have requested follow-

up training in certain areas. In the case of strategic

to tactical planning, several departments have asked the

county administrator to facilitate events as a demonstration

of the techniques discussed in the course. Brief summaries

of the sixteen topics follow.

Contemporary Management Theory

and Practice

Contemporary management theory and practice developed

throughout the twentieth century as the U.S.

economy moved from agriculture and manufacturing to

services and then to knowledge-based work. Education

levels rose and so did the expectations of workers. Earlier

generations were content with laboring for a paycheck,

but contemporary workers expect to be engaged in activities

they consider meaningful and to be respected as

integral parts of the team.

Despite the seemingly more humanistic attitudes that

prevail in contemporary management, productivity continues

to be an important focus and ever-increasing productivity

has helped to buoy the American economy despite

intense global competition. Although misperceptions

regarding productivity in public employment abound,

broadening mandates and shrinking resources are driving

the need for higher productivity in government, a closer

alignment with citizen-driven outcomes, and a more

business-like approach.In recent decades, public administration has been quick

to adopt management practices that originated in the private

sector. From reinventing government to Joe Sensenbrenners

adaptation of Total Quality Management in

Madison, Wisconsin, we have embraced the idea that successful

private-sector management practices and even outsourcing

are good solutions for government problems at

all levels.

Workers Compensation and

Safety Management

Developing and implementing a safety program is in

the interest of both the employee and the organization.

U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration studies

indicate that for every $1 spent on a safety program

in tandem with a managed workers compensation program,

$4 to $6 is saved as illnesses, injuries, and fatalities

decline. Effective program implementation requires management

commitment at all levels and an unwavering devotion

to maintaining the various elements of the program.

In addition to improving quality of work life and

protecting employees, effective workplace safety programs

increase productivity due to less downtime while reducing

workers compensation premiums. Other benefits are associated

with workplace safety, and program success hinges

upon effectively reinforcing the importance of safety, eliminating

unsafe conditions, and training employees to avoid

unsafe acts, since an estimated 80 to 90 percent of workplace

injuries are attributable to unsafe behavior.

Strategic to Tactical Planning

Modern strategic planning became fashionable

decades ago and has probably existed in some form for

centuries, with roots that extend back to Greek military

strategists. Today, many variations exist. Simply stated, strategic

planning is designed to enable organizations to optimize

the benefit of future opportunities through the advantageous

deployment of resources. Despite some

disillusionment over the creation of strategic plans that

merely collect dust, organizational leaders are often

drawn to the methods of strategic planning with the expectation

of improving institutional effectiveness and more

clearly defining mission and goals. These objectives are

laudable, but experience suggests that a much higher degree

of effectiveness can be achieved by moving from the

strategic to the tactical level in the planning process.

At the tactical level, actions are performed through

specific assignments of responsibility and within established

periods. Results are then evaluated for their effectiveness

in achieving strategic goals. Consequently, senior officials,

operations personnel, and stakeholders are able to evaluate

outcomes and adjust for emerging needs as well as

resource availability.

This becomes a dynamic process that involves stakeholders

and creates ownership while optimizing results. People

often fail to recognize that strategic planning should be

a dynamic, iterative process as opposed to a single event.Changing Workforce Trends

In contemporary America, as well as other advanced

societies, dramatic changes in attitude have transformed

the way in which effective managers and HR professionals

must deal with employees. The new or

emergent worker is motivated in different ways than traditional

employees. Attributing the changes to Generations

X and Y is an overly simplistic conclusion. In fact,

globalization, outsourcing, contract employment, economic

and social uncertainty, and a variety of other trends have

produced paradigmatic shifts among workers of all ages,

especially knowledge workers.

Although supervisors sometimes question the loyalty

of these new workers, they are largely a product of an

environment that is far less certain than that of earlier times.

Realigning the public work environment to meet the

needs of the contemporary worker will be a challenge, as

the traditional values of stability, long-term employment,

and regular advancements based on tenure are fading as

prime motivators. Expectations have changed, and successful

organizations are well advised to focus more on

issues such as professional development, creating a fulfilling

work environment, recognition, and performance-based

advancement as a means of attracting and retaining highperforming


Legal Framework of Supervision in Montana

The litigiousness of American society is obvious to

the most casual observer, and public employers are a comparatively

easy target for litigation since government pockets

are generally deep enough to satisfy claims and citizens

can be taxed to pay judgments. The American public

has been conditioned to believe that the legal system can

be manipulated advantageously. However, public managers

can help to mitigate the risk of both spurious and legitimate

claims if they consistently do the right thing.

Perhaps the most common circumstances in the workplace

that lead to significant judgments and settlements are

claims associated with terminations and other personnel

actions. The segments of the course dealing with hiring

and firing, employee performance evaluation, and progressive

discipline provide insights into mitigating the risk

associated with bogus claims. In states like Montana, employees

have a great deal of protection under the law and

public managers are well-advised to be acquainted with

applicable laws and personnel policies to minimize risk.

Consultation with HR professionals and civil attorneys is

generally a wise course of action.

Progressive Discipline

The need for discipline in any form is reduced through

the application of good management practices. Poor performance

and inappropriate conduct are often a result of

ineffective supervision, a lack of familiarity with expectations,

poor understanding of rules and regulations, or

the perception that employees are not treated fairly. Effective

communication and setting clear performance expectations

can help to eliminate poor performance, particularly

if employees are confident that they will be treated


Despite our best efforts, however, discipline is appropriate

at times. In these instances, progressive discipline

moving through a defined set of steps that are increasingly

punitiveis most likely to produce the desired

result of correcting performance and behavioral problems

as well as reducing the probability of successful litigation.

Progressive discipline must be well documented, and supervisors

are encouraged to consult with HR professionals

and possibly the organizations lawyers as they move

through the process.

Hiring and Firing

In general, a more systematic and nimble approach

to both hiring and firing is needed in the public sector,

particularly in comparison with small private enterprise.

Gallatin County has clear policies that deal with hiring

and terminating employees to allow for transparency and

fairness as well as to enhance the probability of attracting

the best possible candidates.

In contemporary society in general and for local governments

in particular, exercising an abundance of caution

in recruitment and screening as well as in terminations

is critical in avoiding the possibility of successful

litigation if things go awry. For these and other reasons,

supervisors must work closely with the HR office to reduce

the possibility that inconsistencies or actions contrary

to policy take place. Moreover, working with the HR

office reduces the burden on the supervisor, allowing more

time to focus on service delivery.

Team Building and Motivation

The term team is among the most misused in contemporary

management. As a management paradigm, team

building has the noblest intentions and, when properly

done, has the potential to enhance productivity, employee

satisfaction, learning, and motivation. In some cases,

team efforts appear contrived, however, and organizers fail to consider the importance of assembling appropriate

skill sets and personal compatibility in formulating


Technical skills and decision-making ability should

be considered in formulating effective teams. Most important,

teams need to be provided with sufficient autonomy

to engender a firm belief that they have an opportunity

to make a valuable contribution. Moreover, the

team must have a clear set of goals over which they can

assume ownership. Given these conditions, teams are often

able to establish a strong results orientation, demonstrate

high levels of accountability, and achieve the synergy

necessary to reach difficult goals.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution has different meanings, depending

on the setting. As played out on the world stage, conflict

resolution can mean resolving armed hostilities between

warring factions. In the context of management

and supervision, most often it refers to resolving disputes

between individuals and small groups of people.

Although most workplace conflict does not result in

violent hostilities, it is damaging to morale and hinders productivity.

Consequently, resolving workplace conflict is an

important managerial function although naturally not all

managers are equally adept at this kind of intervention. In

general, workplace conflict will persist until a climate of respect

and trust begins to develop. Conflict can be relentless,

and even underlying hostilities, if unresolved, can harm

organizational health. Perhaps the most important skill in

conflict resolution is listening impartially to both sides.

Once the mediator (supervisor) has determined the

primary issues, identifying mutually acceptable solutions

is possible, but the mediator must be perceived as objective

by both parties. In the conflict resolution process, the

parties can negotiate and the supervisor serve as a referee,

who helps to maintain the civility of the exchange. Due

to the diversity of people, their belief systems, and values,

disputes cannot always be fully resolved and the parties

merely agree to disagree. Other situations call for more

specialized assistance, and supervisors need to know when

to call for reinforcements.

Measuring and Managing

Organizational Performance

Performance measurement and reinventing government

are the two most prominent movements to

emerge in the field of public administration in the last

twenty years. Both emphasize a strong customer focus in

the way government conducts business, although many

jurisdictions utilize performance measurement as a

means of exerting managerial control and improving internal

accountability. This caveat notwithstanding, the ultimate

goals of performance measurement are to empower

citizens and set clear government priorities that enable

elected officials and managers to make well-informed decisions

concerning the use of scarce resources.

Improving service delivery and efficiency are among

the key objectives for performance improvement and management.

Through public participation in the process, priorities

are identified and measures are devised as a means

of increasing accountability to citizens, the customerowners

of local government. A variety of ways are available

for measuring performance and, for the most part,

inputs, outputs and outcomes are used to determine success,

generally in comparison with benchmarks or best

practices. In most instances, performance measurement is

closely linked to result-oriented budgeting and the

strategic planning process as part of an integrated management


Employee Performance Evaluation

and Improvement

Some question the need for employee performance

appraisal, but most organizations, including Gallatin

County, require periodic assessments of individual performance.

In many cases, these appraisals are used as the

basis for merit increases as well as a means of redirecting

employees. Unfortunately, performance appraisal is often

poorly executed and in some cases misused by supervisors

that have abdicated their ongoing responsibility for

guiding employee performance. Generally, a review of employee

performance shouldnt result in any surprises. Regular

communication facilitates a well-balanced relationship

between the employee and the supervisor.

Consequently, the employee should be well aware of expectations

and should receive regular guidance that will

enable corrective action without a negative performance


The performance appraisal should be an opportunity

for employee and supervisor to exchange ideas regarding

the future as well as the preceding evaluation period. A wellconceived

system of performance evaluation should be

prospective as well as retrospective. Moreover, the instrument

used should account for position-specific performance

criteria as well as general attributes, along with allowingroom for comments by both parties and an individual development

plan if desired.

Role of the HR Office

The role of the HR office was historically restricted

to managing payroll and benefits as well as serving as

an internal regulator through the enforcement of policies.

HR staff members were treated as the systems police

and consulted as infrequently as possible due to the sometimes

accurate perception that they would merely act as

an obstacle to forward movement of the real work of

the organization.

In the public sector, HR managers operate in a somewhat

more restrictive environment than their privatesector

counterparts. Commercial operations make hiring

decisions on the basis of the potential to contribute to the

bottom line. In government, political factors and the service

needs of citizens are decisive factors. Moreover, public

personnel specialists focus more consistently on issues

such as equity of pay, diversity, and accountability due to

legal stipulations and public scrutiny.

Today, the role of the HR professional is changing dramatically.

Changes in technology, reengineering, competition

for qualified workers, movement away from traditional

civil service, decentralized decision-making structures,

the age of litigation, and performance measurement initiatives

are just a few of the reasons behind this sea change

in public personnel management. Todays HR office is likely

to be called upon to serve as a strategic business partner,

conflict resolution specialist, and change agent while

continuing to fulfill its traditional roles of payroll, benefits,

classification, and policy enforcer.

Communication and Organizational Success

In the absence of good communication, any organization

has great difficulty succeeding, and improving

communications in an organization directly benefits productivity

and employee satisfaction. Although these assertions

appear to be common sense, poor communication

may be the single most prevalent cause of workplace


A manager doesnt need to be especially eloquent in

communicating with employees, but some basic principles

should be considered and a variety of common mistakes

avoided. Effective communication is an art and a science,

and among the most critical elements of managerial

success. One of the most common reasons for managers

failure to develop trust, effectively deploy teams, and deal

with organizational discord is their inability to communicate.

Adopting a few basic principles and being at least

moderately attentive to the power of effective communication

can spell the difference between success and failure

in management and leadership.

Workplace Stress and Productivity

Workplace stress has become a prominent topic in

contemporary management. Many books have been written

about the stress associated with modern-day life, and

untold numbers of mental health professionals regularly

deal with stress-related symptoms. Although stress seems

much worse in our era, it has always existed and can be

effectively managed to maintain organizational productivity

and employee health. Our ancestors were equipped

with fight-or-flight response systems that served them

well when they were physically threatened. Modern humans

have the same equipment and are still able to create

physiological and emotional responses to stress although

the threats are rarely physical.

The fast pace of modern life and the stress of the many

work settings are difficult to avoid, but they can be managed

in positive ways. Supervisors need to manage their

own stress levels as well as monitor the potential for unhealthy

levels of stress among their employees. In addition

to legitimate concerns for the welfare of colleagues,

managers need to be aware of the deleterious impact of

persistent stress on productivity.

Good Public Management

in a Political Environment

Woodrow Wilson provided much of the theoretical

underpinning that resulted in decades of debate over the

politics-administration dichotomy. Essentially, the concept

distinguishes the political side of government activity

from the administrative side and suggests that a clear

separation exists. As most public managers realize, of course,

politics and public administration are often intertwined in

a complex dance of discourse and resource allocation that

has the ability to confuse those working in government

and is especially vexing for the public. Administrators can

become highly frustrated over political decisions they believe

inconsistent with sensible priorities, while politicians

are concerned that their decisions are stymied by bureaucratic

red tape and obfuscation.Resolving such issues is never easy, and even the bestmanaged

local governments find political and administrative

players at loggerheads from time to time. Depoliticizing

many elements of the business of government

is possible, however. Promoting effective communication

and the creation of policies, standards, and procedures can

make it much easier for both politicians and administrators

to resist the temptation to make arbitrary decisions.

Ethics in Public Management

For public managers, credibility is currency. Once that

credibility is compromised, effectiveness is dramatically

reduced. Ethical dilemmas can be subtle at times, and exercising

ones best judgment isnt always easy. An unethical

choice can yield significant personal and organizational

advantages, but the benefits are usually short term.

Discussions of ethical conduct often focus on issues

associated with financial gain, corruption, and nepotism,

all serious concerns. Government officials have an even

broader range of concerns, and working in the public sector

implies a commitment to upholding the public trust

and a willingness to accept heightened scrutiny. Even the

perception of unethical behavior can be damaging to public


What is legal differs from what is ethical. For example,

certain kinds of support for political candidates may

be legal but ill advised, particularly if the individual you

are endorsing loses the election. Conflict of interest

not always easy to identifyis another common pitfall.

Contacting the county attorney, county administrator, or

HR office for guidance is advisable if a question arises.

Program Benefits and Outcomes

In Gallatin County, growth has had a number of manifestations,

including the expectation of a broader range

of services, greater responsiveness, more accountability, and

greater citizen engagement. In essence, many residents and

increasingly sophisticated interest groups demand more

of county employees. Moreover, employee expectations

have changed, and managers need to develop greater

awareness of a variety of techniques to nurture higher performance

while satisfying employee demands for better

communication and meaningful involvement.

Participants acquired a better understanding of contemporary

management practices as well as changes that

influence effective interaction with employees. Some of

the most spirited discussions were around topics such as

Generation X and Y relations, working in a political environment,

and progressive discipline. Workplace stress and

productivity was another especially interesting topic to class


While the Gallatin County government is not such a

large organization that managers dont know one another

by name, many departments are sufficiently specialized and

stovepiped that opportunities for meaningful interaction are

limited. Functionally, greater collaboration is needed in a few

instances, and the organization is overcoming some longstanding

tensions between departments through better communication,

a process the county administrator has encouraged

since his tenure began.

The Management and Supervision Course certainly

helped to catalyze the process of relationship building.

For example, small group activities were deliberately designed

in a manner that prevented participants from consistently

teaming up with their friends and acquaintances.

In this manner, all participants had opportunities to work

with virtually everyone else in the class during one session

or another.

The course format also required individual participants

to respond to questions and otherwise make their

opinions known. This process usually stimulated good discussions

and enhanced learning while increasing empathy

and shared understanding of our collective resources.

More specifically, we discovered alternative approaches to

management problems and found pockets of expertise that

would not have remained hidden had it not been for the

sharing during the course. Moreover, the participants became

better acquainted personally, which is helping to

make Gallatin Countys managers more accessible to one


Having served as an executive for one of our countrys

largest continuing education providers, I am well aware

of the quality of training products available. The recently

completed Gallatin County program has no particular

claim to excellence compared with management training

produced by training professionals, but a highly

customized program that can be delivered conveniently

and cost-effectively, in an interactive classroom setting, certainly

has merit. This may be especially true in Montana,

but variations may apply to other public entities as well.