June 13, 2008 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."
~Carl Sandburg
This week I intended to write about our ongoing efforts to transform DHS into a world-class human services organization.

But I find myself, like many of you, reflecting on the loss of our good friend and colleague Bryan Johnston. I wonder what it means to our agency and the people we serve to lose such an open-hearted and dedicated advocate. I wonder about the hole his absence will leave in Salem and throughout Oregon. My heart breaks for his family and I keep thinking I will see him walk through the door of my office.

These reflections make me realize that I am again compelled to talk about why we are embarking on our Transformation Initiative project, in large part because no one epitomized the importance of public service better than Bryan. He believed completely that government used well can be a force for good, and that the work we do is too important to not be the best in the world.

Bryan started as interim head of the Children, Adults and Families Division during a very difficult time for CAF. Shortly after he began, a federal review of child welfare showed that we were falling short on some critical measurements to keep families strong and together. Public attention was focused not on our accomplishments, but on our failures.

Yet at the same time, behind the scenes, we had been digging in with the help of the McKinsey Corporation to analyze how we do our work within child welfare and how we could make it better. We looked at every job from caseworker to support staff. We reviewed our work processes. The results quantified and documented in a way never done before the over-burdened daily life of frontline workers, and showed how a hard job is made even more difficult when there are too many bureaucratic demands, too few of the right tools, and not enough time and support.

Once we had that information, Bryan was eager to begin removing the barriers that hindered his staff's efforts to serve families. And because Bryan had served earlier as interim DHS director, he understood the need to get started not just within CAF, but across our entire agency. The current phase of the transformation project, during which we are finalizing the plans for improvement throughout DHS left him tapping his toes with impatience. There is a lot of work to do and he wanted to get started.

Bryan knew, with a clear-eyed vision and unwavering faith, that by working together we will come through for those who count on us. We will help keep Oregon's children safe and our elders well cared for. We will reach our goal of making sure no one suffers because of lack of health care, and we will make improvements in the public's health. We will become a state that protects and supports the most vulnerable among us instead of relegating them to the margins of society. And, we will become the best at what we do.

Over the next few months, as we begin moving from analysis to action within the transformation project, Bryan is going to be on my mind. My hope is that we can honor his memory by the improvements we implement, and make him proud.

We are at an important moment in the Transformation Initiative because we are on the verge of taking all we have done in the past year or so and putting it into action. My original plan for today was to give you some examples of what we have learned and lay out a timeline of the next steps. I'll provide more on that next week.

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DHS on the web