Jorge Figueredo's 2008 crits of NTTA released
By Peter Samuel
2012-07-18: "Performance Review" reports to the board of directors of North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) by executive director Jorge Figueredo after he became chief executive in mid-2007 reveal he was disappointed with the quality of key people there and set out to make radical changes.
Three "Performance Review" documents written by Figueredo in 2008 and stamped "Confidential" were recently obtained by Dallas Morning News transportation reporter Michael Lindenberger after a lengthy legal battle in which the state attorney-general finally sided with the newspaper. They are posted on the News website and we provide links at the bottom.
In the first of the Reviews dated 12 June 2008, ten months after he took the top executive job, Figueredo writes to the board members that when he'd originally interviewed for the job he thought he was going to "a high performing organization that had implemented the latest and best technology and practices."
Early in the job, he still thought that NTTA had "a reasonably talented and committed workforce that would react rationally to change."
Then he adds: "the reality is that the NTTA suffered from a marginally talented workforce, lack of strong internal systems and controls, and a rigid culture that has to be replaced."
He portrays himself as coming around slowly to the view that a radical rebuilding of NTTA was needed, something that board members had expressed in the interview process that selected him for the post:
"During the interview process for this position (board members)... made clear to me that the agency faced numerous critical issues within the region and that to be successful major changes had to be made to the organization, its employees and its culture."
He says a "transformation" is needed "affecting all departments" that "will ultimately result in a completely new organization with a new structure, new processes, and in many, many cases new staff."
He then writes of "serious and systemic resistance to change within NTTA." Personnel moves made before he arrived were flawed and were "having to be undone."
He writes that he'd provide details of obviously sensitive personnel moves in his oral presentation.
"We are arrogant, self-centered"
Outside complaints about NTTA being "an arrogant agency primarily focussed on itself" were justified he said "based on an organizational culture that I have found here."
He proceeds then to say board members should not be discouraged by these negatives, because despite them the NTTA had made "critical deliverables" and he lists ten achievements including successful financing of TX121 later Sam Rayburn Tollway despite the the difficult financial times, progress on PGBT Extension, SW Parkway and Chisholm Trail, a project management office working "full throttle," many critical new hires in key positions, and improved relationships with regional and state agencies.
Lastly he referred to a "total commitment to repairing" a "strained and withered" relationship between staff and board.
But Figueredo continued that this was "only the beginning." And he laid out what he called a "longterm transformation of the NTTA" that would have two phases.
Phase One would "stabilize the ship" while masking "significant structural and staff changes" to make accomplish the "massive work plan" the agency had been given. A review of all departments and functions that would review structure, processes, coordination, staffing levels, and quality of personnel was a Phase One initiative that would be completed in the coming weeks (July or August?).
He proposed to stretch out some changes so they didn't compromise performance in projects under way. He wanted to discuss this in the oral session.
Phase Two would involve outside consultants helping to assess how the performance of the authority could be improved. This would focus more on outsourcing versus agency staffing of tasks - a "top to bottom review to ensure we are doing the right things in the right way" and that money was being spent well.
There follow many pages of bullet points under titles such as Challenges, Accomplishments, and Going Forward on the different departments and projects.
The one most indicative of Figueredo's commitment to major changes comes under "Executive Management and Senior Staff" in which one refers to the "Process of eliminating under-qualified employees underway."
Hiring and de-hiring
Another is: "De-hire the people on our team who are not contributing to our mission and are more detrimental to our success than any of our adversaries".
Followed by: "Continue to hire for skills and passion".
Some have said that what finally caused Figueredo to resign - he has not said anything himself - was the failure of the board to support him in reforming the role of entrenched consultants at NTTA.
He tackles this in bullet points (p18 of June Review) under Consultant Review" writing that consultants have been relied on heavily, even to the extent of selecting other consultants.
" - Major consultant contracts in place for decades
" - Strong perception in consulting community that NTTA is a closed shop...
He alludes to resistance from strong consultants to a "shift from 'them managing us' to 'us managing them'.
Under Going Forward he has "new philosophy.. opening NTTA to multiple...firms"
Also engineers would be recruited to the NTTA to enable it to exercise "strong staff oversight" of consultants.
The second (October) and third (November) Review documents are generally more positive about accomplishments but continue many of the transformation themes of the June review.
Apparently in the middle of the oral presentation of the third review in December, Figueredo left the meeting and returned handing board members his letter of resignation.
The talk was he resigned over a board refusal to go along with his plans to compete old consultant contracts. HNTB has been named as the most troublesome contract, and the basis for the throwaway comment "We don't manage them, they manage us."
But that has never been confirmed, and on the record the separation was Figueredo leaving because of family ties in Orlando FL where he's from.
Later management did get board support in recompeting all the Tollway's consulting contracts.
AFTERTHOUGHT: NTTA spent $137,000 in lawyers fees it says trying to keep these three Figueredo documents secret. And on his departure from NTTA Figueredo also successfully negotiated a severance package that provided 6-figure compensation for him not speaking.
If people will spend hundreds of thousands on having him not write and not speak, he must be worth many millions a year as a writer and as a speaker on the lecture circuit. Clearly the toll industry has produced in Figueredo a towering man of letters whose writing and speaking talents haven't yet been given full recognition.
But heck this is giving us an idea. Call it Learn from Jorge. Maybe we'll too might do better seeking compensation not to write, rather than writing.
June 18 2008 Performance Review
October 14 2008 Performance Review
November 19 2008 Performance Review
Figueredo appointed July 2007
Figueredo resigned December 2008
NTTA has a great website, one of the best