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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Policy, Management and Budget
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Preliminary Input

Memorandum from Facilitator on CORE Program
February 28, 2001


To: Elena Gonzalez
From: Pete Swanson
Subject: CORE Meeting Summary Report
Date: February 28, 2001

Introduction and Summary Report

This memorandum is divided into two parts. The first is an introduction and summary of the recent CORE Managers meeting which I facilitated February 13, 2001 at DOI headquarters. Part two is an attachment consisting of narrative and minutes of the meeting as captured by Joan Goldfarb and myself. In addition to facilitating the meeting, I have also been requested to provide recommendations based on topics covered in the discussion. Those recommendations appear at the end of the summary report.

The meeting had two primary purposes. The first was to provide a forum for the Department and Bureau representatives to discuss with each other how the CORE program is functioning, and what issues people are facing. Secondly, the meeting was designed to elicit from the participants how the Department office could more effectively support them in their roles as CORE managers. It was made clear to all attending that no guaranties would be made as a result of this meeting, but that recommendations would be put forward to the interagency policy review group that will convene in the near future.

The meeting was designed so that the morning was taken up by reports from CDRM representatives, followed by period of facilitated discussion (lasting most the day) on the following topics:

  • Individual bureau reports
  • CDRM's perspective of what is working well and what needs improving
  • Training needs (formal classroom, co-mediation, and scheduling future events)
  • Marketing and promoting CORE
  • Reporting and information gathering

Within each of the major areas, the group was asked four questions:

  1. What is going on?
  2. How are things working?
  3. What challenges do you face?
  4. What do you need for more effective implementation of the CORE program?

Presented below are highlights of each discussion topic. At the end of the meeting the CDRM's requested that they be allowed to meet quarterly, and they agreed to form subgroups to deal with particular issues in advance of the next meeting. In addition to the workgroups, several next steps were agreed to:

  1. All CDRM's would provide Fred and Craig copies of their existing marketing and promotional materials.
  2. John Combs would provide clarification on settlement agreements and union involvement
  3. All CDRM's will report on who are experienced co-mediators and where the trainees are coming from
  4. Jeff, Elena and John will request additional CORE budget resources
  5. Next meeting date was set for sometime between June 4-8, 2001

Bureau reports:
Bureau CORE activity ranged from almost non-existent to 40 CORE contacts (USGS). However, it was clear that implementation of CORE programs was not uniform throughout the department, and a discussion ensued throughout the day that explored the need to provide some kind of consistency while retaining autonomy.

CDRM's perspective of what is working well and what needs improving
Overall the program is working moderately well, but in many of the bureaus several persistent challenges remain, including -

  • Lack of resources (finances, people)
  • Too little time for the job
  • Clear understanding with EEO needed
  • Confusion among employees as to where CORE fits with respect to EEO
  • Too many sources of mediators (EEO, CORE, HR)
  • Lack of buy-in from union

Role of the CDRM
CORE managers identified the following roles and responsibilities they would like reflected in their positions:

  1. Direct and administer program
  2. Provide information & training (marketing)
  3. Training for CORE specialists
  4. Monitor and evaluate program
  5. Review regional implementation
  6. Coordination role -- point of contact, inter-bureau mentor, counsel, teach, coach, help strategize
  7. Shepherding agreements; making sure they are complied with
  8. Developing marketing plans

The issue of the role of CORE manager will be visited by the Interagency ADR review workgroup. In addition, based on the CDRM's input to proposed changes to the DM, Elena will re-draft DM to reflect clear guidance with regards to role of BDRS and CDRM.

Budget and resource constraints were major issues among the participants. Participants, for the most part, were feeling constrained by limited resources and inadequate time to do their job. The scarcity of funds, and the resulting impact, was reflected in almost every topic discussed by the group. Knowing that it was unlikely more funding was not going to be immediately forthcoming for CORE, the group decided to simultaneously request more resources and create a marketing committee to address how the word about CORE can be more effectively spread among employees.

Of the 75 people trained already, 37 have participated in co-mediation. An issue raised by the group was how mediators should be certified, and whether the DM should be changed to reflect some kind of quality control. Later in the day a discussion took place which examined various options for providing co-mediation opportunities to the trainees. A workgroup was formed to explore this topic in more depth and make recommendations back to the group.

Delivery of CORE services
In examining what is working well and what needs adjusting, several people voiced concerns that too many people were being trained as mediators. What may be necessary is to review what skills are needed (i.e. general coaching/counseling/interviewing/information dissemination vs. mediation and facilitation skills), and then determine whether CORE specializations should emerge. If the need for specialty areas among CORE specialists becomes evident, then the group can determine what training is necessary for each specialty area. A workgroup was formed to explore this topic in more depth and make recommendations back to the group.

Training needs (formal classroom, co-mediation, and scheduling future events)
Generally, participants were pleased with the training CORE staff had received, and the group decided to provide four more classes between late April and early June for those who had not received either the three day or the five day ADR training. Discussion did ensue with regards to how much self-assessment should be provided to the participants. However, problems remained in that many people were not being given the chance to use their training, and the skills were growing stale. A workgroup was formed to explore this topic in more depth and make recommendations back to the group.

All participants realized the need to effectively market the program, especially in light of limited resources. The group spent much time brainstorming ways the CORE program could be more effectively highlighted within DOI and the individual bureau cultures. A working group was tasked with providing recommendations for how CORE managers could make the most use of existing resources.

Reporting and information gathering
The need to accurately collect and measure data was important. However, time did not allow the group to explore this topic. Instead, a workgroup was formed to formulate a plan for research and reporting criteria for the next meeting.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The CORE program is a sound and productive effort to provide conflict resolution services to the DOI workforce. Based on the meeting held February 13, it is also apparent the program is suffering from some growing pains. The following recommendations are intended to address some of the concerns and issues the CORE program is experiencing as it develops into a mature program.

Recruitment -- Re-examine CORE recruiting Strategies. The success or failure of the CORE program will rely exclusively on the caliber of people working for the program. It is important, therefore, that in recruiting CORE specialists the process for selecting them be 1) both voluntary and in large part self-selective and 2) include a filtering mechanism to test the abilities of prospective specialist at the initial application phase

Specialization -- Provide optional specialty areas for CORE personnel. People who volunteer to be CORE specialists clearly want to help others resolve problems in the workplace. However, not all CORE specialists will be capable mediators. Therefore, to capitalize on both the best intentions and the strengths of CORE personnel, the program may consider providing specialty areas - i.e. dedicated mediation, intake or general problem solving areas. In this model, once candidates have been initially trained and have shown their particular talents, decisions can be made about where to best place them within the CORE program.

Training, Needs and Quality Control -- Determine how many mediators will be needed and train them appropriately - The CORE program is now correlating data between how many people have been trained and the demonstrated need for services. As has been discussed, not all CORE specialists will be effective mediators. The initial training program should be used as one of the filtering mechanisms to determine which CORE specialists have the necessary talents to specialize in providing mediation services. Those who do not show such promise can be persuaded to lend their skills and abilities to other CORE services. With regards to certification, it is important to note that the requirement for CORE specialists having completed three co-mediations before being allowed mediate as a lead or solo be re-examined. In addition to having completed the three co-mediations, these mediations should be evaluated by a qualified mediator/mentor. Simply having completed three co-mediations is no measure of success or ability.

Resources -- Share resources across bureaus and standardize operating procedures. The resources needed to make the CORE program run optimally are scarce, and many other DOI programs competing for those scarce funds. In an effort to make the best use of the resources already available, an in-depth exploration of how resources across bureaus can be more effectively shared is encouraged. Such a review may yield ways in which those persons who have particularly good mediations skills may be shared across agencies, thereby freeing them up from other CORE work that can be picked up by other CORE specialists in other bureaus.

CORE Managers -- Revise the CORE managers position to be proportional rather than collateral. Instead of making the CORE manager position one which is collateral, it should be folded in to their existing position descriptions as an essential element. This would provide both the incentive in performance and allow for the time necessary to devote to the job. In addition, that portion of a position description devoted to the duties and responsibilities of a CORE manager should be consistent across bureaus