Virginia Department of Transportation Case Study: Turning Around a Damaged Reputation through Effective Management and Motivation Strategies

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Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Running head: VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION CASE STUDY Virginia Department of Transportation Case Study A high-performance business or body, time after time, attains excellence whilst fashioning a first-rate work atmosphere (Schermerhorn, 2010). The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) was once considered a premier transportation department, but over the years their reputation had become damaged due to budget overruns and a public perception that VDOT could not do its job.

When Mark Warner was elected governor of Virginia in 2001, he wanted a new commissioner for VDOT that had private sector experience to turn VDOT around. His search led him to appoint Philip Shucet, a transportation engineer with both public and private sector experience. This paper will discuss some of the management theories that could have been applied to problems at VDOT, as well as how management has reacted to challenges. Next, an environmental analysis will be conducted and short, mid, and long-term goals will be discussed.

Finally, Shucet’s motivation to take the job and the motivational problems at VDOT will be addressed. Management Theories McGregor’s Theory X “assumes that people dislike work, lack ambition, are irresponsible and resistant to change, and prefer to be led” (Oke, 2011, pg. 26). Theory Y “assumes that people are willing to work, accept responsibility, and are capable of self-direction and creativity” (Oke, 2011, pg. 26). When Shucet arrived at VDOT, Theory X was much more in place, as is often the case in large bureaucracies.

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There was little teamwork or communication between departments and no one really knew the status of any of the projects (Clawson & Yemen, 2011). If Shucet implemented Theory Y much of this would change as employees took responsibility for their projects and became motivated to succeed. Frederick Taylor’s scientific management theory would also help to improve performance at VDOT. Taylor’s theory stresses finding the right workers for the job and training them correctly (Oke, 2011). Downsizing led to massive retirements of highly skilled workers during the 1990’s.

This pushed under or unqualified people into positions they were not ready for (Clawson & Yemen, 2005). An evaluation of the staff and their qualifications for their current positions could result in a restructuring that would better match skills with job requirements. Implementation of Henri Fayol’s administrative principles would have had a significant impact on VDOT. Fayol spells out five duties of management; foresight, organization, command, coordination, and control (Oke, 2011). While there were deficiencies in all of these categories, two in particular were weak, coordination and control.

Coordination is defined as actions that “fit diverse efforts together and ensure that information is shared and problems solved” (Oke, 2011, p. 22). As discussed earlier, information sharing was a significant weakness at VDOT. Control is actions that “make sure things happen according to plan and to take necessary corrective action” (Oke, 2011, p. 22). Since no one knew the status of the projects, management could not take corrective actions in a timely manner. Six Challengers The six challenges in today’s workforce are ethics, globalization, technology, knowledge, diversity, and change (Oke, 2011).

Ethical issues were a significant problem at VDOT. The commissioner of VDOT was a political appointee and this sometimes led to under-qualified individuals or people with their own agendas being placed in charge of a multi-billion dollar organization (Trying to Keep Virginia Moving, 2005). The appointment of Shucet corrected this, as he did not have political aspirations and was concerned only about getting VDOT functioning correctly for the long-term. Globalization was not much of a factor at VDOT since they are a governmental entity that does not compete on the open market and their business is entirely located in Virginia.

Shucet noticed quickly that there were technologies available to the employees that were not being utilized efficiently or effectively. This increased workloads and reduced the communication. VDOT had lost a significant portion of their most knowledgeable workers to early retirements and resources needed to be devoted to improving the knowledge and skills of the current workforce. Diversity is a challenge in all organizations, but was not specifically addressed in this case study. The final challenge is change, which is often difficult for large, bureaucratic organizations like VDOT.

There was much that needed to change, from the organizational structure, to communications, to major procedures such as budgeting and tracking of projects. Private businesses are forced to change to keep pace with competition. However, until Shucet arrived, VDOT did not have the necessary motivators to implement the necessary changes. Environmental Analysis The specific and general environment conditions played a pivotal role in the effectiveness and trustworthiness of the VDOT organization before Shucet was hired. The organization was barraged with scrutiny from both ends of the hierarchical spectrum.

The politicians in Virginia created an impression that VDOT was both poorly managing and severely under-funding their proposed projects. Virginia citizens were also criticizing VDOT wondering and if their tax dollars were being spent properly (Darden, 2005). VDOT is a government organization that must face the pressures of scrutiny from many groups and should have had answers to provide the stakeholders. The taxpayers had a right to know why projects were being under-funded, why approximately 15% of VDOT’s projects were going unfinished and what they were going to do about fixing it.

Unfortunately, VDOT did not have the answers (Darden, 2005). Economic conditions were negatively impacting VDOT. They did not have the current or projected revenue to complete the projects within the six-year plan. Their estimates were based on expected population growth in Virginia as well as expected growth in tax revenue that the population increase would generate. When the projections fell short it resulted in VDOT’s projects not being fully funded. The political conditions created a sense of tension among VDOT and the many political bodies that had influence over it.

In addition, local politicians were publicly criticizing their own transportation department, demeaning the organization in the eyes of its most critical stakeholder, the taxpayers of Virginia. Goals Based on the environmental analysis, one short-term goal for VDOT would be to decrease the political impact on the organization. Governor Warner accomplished this goal by appointing Shucet and then leaving him alone. In an interview, Shucet said that in the three years since becoming commissioner, the governor had called him “about six times” (Bacon, 2004, n. p. ).

This allowed VDOT to plan for the long-term and not just to meet a political agenda. Another short-term goal would be to make VDOT more transparent to the public. Shucet did this by creating a website showing the status and cost of all of the VDOT’s projects (Bacon, 2004). A mid to long-term goal would be increasing the completion rate of VDOT’s projects. In Shucet’s second year, VDOT’s completion rate increased to 39% and was expected to meet its projection of 60% in year three. The long-term goal was to reach a completion rate of 80% (Bacon, 2004). Both of these goals should decrease the taxpayers’ displeasure with VDOT.

VDOT was experiencing significant revenue shortfalls. Rather than just raising taxes to increase revenue, a final long-term goal would be to change the focus of transportation planning in Virginia away from just building new roads to finding new, more economical solutions to the state’s transportation problems (Bacon, 2004). This goal will help to ensure the taxpayers are getting the most value for their tax dollar. Shucet’s Motivation There are a number of theories that could apply to the motivating factor that led to Shucet taking on the VDOT commissioner position. However, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides an excellent one.

Shucet had met all of his lower order needs and was looking to fulfill his need for self-actualization through creative and challenging work, by having decision making authority, and by being autonomous (Oke, 2011). VDOT was a complex problem. This was an opportunity for Shucet to fix the third largest transportation department and regain their status as one of the best departments of transportation in the country. The commissioner of VDOT is a high-ranking state position and Governor Warner allowed him the autonomy he needed to freely make decisions to improve the department.

Motivational Theories Motivational theory is composed of four sections; content, process, reinforcement, and job enrichment. Herzberg’s two-factor theory is a content theory that states that by increasing satisfier factors, a manager can increase job satisfaction. Prior to Shucet’s arrival, individuals were not accountable for their projects. By making individuals more accountable and acknowledging accomplishments, Shucet could motivate his employees to perform better. Expectancy theory, a process theory, links achievement and reward to performance.

Because of the lack of accountability under prior commissioners, there was not a link between performance and achievement, and most likely no rewards system. People are motivated to work harder if they know it will make a difference and that there is a reward for them. By implementing a rewards system, VDOT could motivate their employees to accomplish the mission of the organization. Positive reinforcement “strengthens or increases the frequency of desirable behavior by making a pleasant consequence contingent on its occurrence” (Oke, 2011, p. 93). With all of the public scrutiny of VDOT, morale was very low.

By identifying the things the groups were doing well and by providing praise and other rewards as new goals were accomplished, Shucet could turn the attitudes of the employees around. Job enrichment increases job scope and job depth (Oke, 2011). Since one of the goals of VDOT was to hold individuals more accountable for their projects, enriching their jobs would allow them the flexibility and authority to truly take ownership of their jobs. When employees feel they have a stake in the outcome of a project they are more motivated to do well. Discussion

Even when an organization is as dysfunctional as VDOT was, there are numerous tools available to managers to improve their organizations. Everything from the structure of the organization as a whole to the definition of each individual’s job contributes to the success or failure of an organization. The ability to implement the correct tool for the situation at the correct time is what sets great managers apart from the rest. References Bacon, J. A. (2004). The Shucet Shakeup. Retrieved October 5, 2011 from http://www. baconsrebellion. com/Issues04/09-07/Bacon. htm Clawson, J. G. & Yemen, G. (2005).

Virginia Department of Transportation: Trying to Keep Virginia Moving. Charlottesville, VA: Darden Business Publishing. Retrieved October 12, 2011, from http://it. darden. virginia. edu/VDOT/studentWeb/ content/index. htm? speed=128 Oke, R. (2011). Management and organizational behavior. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Custom Learning Solutions. Custom text ISBN 13: 9780470942710 Schermerhorn, J. R. (2010). Management. (10th ed). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Trying To Keep Virgina Moving. (2005). Retrieved October 14, 2011, from http://it. darden. virginia. edu/VDOT/studentWeb/content/index. htm? speed=128

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Virginia Department of Transportation Case Study: Turning Around a Damaged Reputation through Effective Management and Motivation Strategies. (2018, Jan 08). Retrieved from

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