Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Love of Outdoors Defines NVRPA Employees

Love of the outdoors, entrepreneurial, innovative, flexible, non-bureaucratic... These are some of the key characteristics of the employees of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.

Last winter I took a course in Leading Organizational Change at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. As part of this course Dr. Sigal Barsade taught a session on organizational culture. The message was clear, if you want to create a new initiative like implementing a strategic plan it had better align with the culture of the organization if it is going to be successful.

In the last couple years we have been about a lot of positive change at NVRPA. We have a new mission statement, new falsities, a new energy conservation policy, perhaps the most cutting edge pesticide and fertilizer use policy of any public agency, and the first five year strategic plan in our agency's history. We have been successfully implementing all this change at the same time we have improved the overall condition and marketing of most of our facilities and have seen record public interest in our parks. That is a lot of change!

To help us continue our positive momentum we conducted an interesting study of the organizational culture of NVRPA employees. We did this through both extensive confidential interviews as well as an on-line survey. In this way we were able to collect both qualitative and quantitative data and compare them. The results are posted on the NVRPA web site at:

This study covers a wide range of issues that get at employees values, motivations, and expectation. On of the most encouraging elements is that the number one reason people work for NVRPA is a deeply rooted love of the outdoors. With a sincere passion for what they do, it is little wonder that NVRPA staff have achieved so much recently.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pool Safety

Today I spent some time with our senior lifeguards, pool managers, and park rangers in charge of our pools and water parks. The best of the best in the aquatics field. This was part of a three day training called Top Gun that is conducted each year by NASCO (National Aquatic Safety Company). Reinforcing, but going far beyond basic life guard skills, Top Gun teaches management to these young people. The quality of this education is fantastic. Dr. John Hunsucker, the founder of NASCO leads these sessions, along with other staff with professional teaching backgrounds.

NASCO also provides the life guard training, and regular auditing of our water safety staff. This company was set up to offer the higher level of safety training that is needed for busy water parks. Their client list is a who's who of major water parks across the nation.

Last year NVRPA received a "World Class" rating from NASCO as a result of their audit. This year we are very fortunate to have 75% of our life guards returning to us from employment last summer. This is a very good sign that most of our guards are familiar with our standards and are receiving their training for the second or third time.

The job of safety in our pools and water parks is perhaps the most important job in the whole agency.