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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Developing Transportation Agency Leaders. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23300.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Developing Transportation Agency Leaders. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23300.
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Page 2

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The dawn of the 21st century has brought with it significant challenges for state departments of transportation (DOTs). Increasing demand for customer service, limited revenues, and workforce issues requires exceptional leadership at all levels of a public transportation agency. This synthesis project focused on developing transportation agency leaders and examines both public- and private-sector leadership programs in search of optimal solutions to this important aspect of state transportation agency management and operations. For the study, programs in 25 states as well as 7 private-sector firms were considered. One of the most serious issues state DOTs must face is that large numbers of their employ- ees, including those holding key leadership positions, will soon leave state service, either through retirement or by accepting employment elsewhere. This departure of skilled, expe- rienced personnel, particularly from the leadership ranks of a DOT, will be devastating if not addressed proactively by each public agency. Although it is a trend that has been discussed for many years, some agencies are not acting on this knowledge in a way to ensure that capa- ble individuals are there to fill the positions vacated by these experienced leaders. State DOTs have launched a variety of initiatives focused on developing transportation leaders to fill both present and future needs. Some of these programs rely on group develop- ment with large general training classes and curriculum. Others emphasize the employee’s individual needs and work to prepare them to assume a future leadership role. Both provide value in their own way and individually address a portion of the workforce problem. Many agencies understand that filling the ranks of their leadership positions should begin with the original recruitment efforts engaged in by the DOT. Hiring the right people, those with an aptitude and interest in assuming leadership roles in the transportation agency, serves as an excellent foundation for further development programs. Some would simplify the hir- ing process through their reference to a “workforce pipeline,” as if it were a single conduit delivering qualified individuals to an agency to fill its vacancies. In reality, this pipeline has many branches and the route to DOT employment can be circuitous at best. A variety of methods are used to ensure that the right people are hired. These include the specific ques- tions being asked during the interview as well as the selection of individuals who have a com- prehensive view of their profession and organization. It is not possible to address the issues of leadership and succession management without considering general workforce development. Training, educating, and otherwise improving the overall level of professional expertise among employees in general is key to creating a culture in which leadership and succession initiatives will thrive. Unfortunately, in chal- lenging budget times, workforce development efforts are often the first element of a public agency to be cut. Employers, both public and private, who understand workforce develop- ment, work aggressively to ensure this does not happen, because they know this important investment affects the future success of their organization. The important concept known as “succession management” should be considered along with recruitment and training. Succession management is the deliberate process of grooming SUMMARY DEVELOPING TRANSPORTATION AGENCY LEADERS

and developing leaders who will assume key roles in the agency’s future. Some programs are formal, whereas others are not. Most are administered by the DOT’s human resources direc- tor, although some are personally directed by the agency’s chief executive officer (CEO). Research indicates that the most successful are those in which the state CEO takes a personal interest and role. Many of these state programs have experienced limited success owing to personnel rules and the absence of senior leadership involvement. An important element of this review was an analysis of how private-sector companies are handling the development of their future leadership teams. Many private-sector firms, both in and out of the transportation industry, take leadership development and succession man- agement very seriously. They view their investments in these efforts as contributions to their balance sheets that will result in long-term profitability. Key attributes of these private- sector programs include significant involvement from the company’s chairman, CEO, or president; and diversity of experience focused on developing nontraditional skills in future leaders, such as finance for engineers, research for administrative personnel, and so forth. In addition, private companies have a profit motive because senior leaders know that their indi- vidual retirement programs will eventually be in the hands of those they select and develop as future leaders. Leadership development is a key success factor for public- and private-sector companies in the 21st century; having such programs is no longer optional. The existence of effective programs will allow organizations to excel in these tumultuous times. Public-sector agencies will find value in the lessons and programs found among their private-sector counterparts. 2

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TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 349: Developing Transportation Agency Leaders examines practices and innovative approaches that address the development of transportation leadership in today’s work environment. The report covers demographics, recruitment and retention, leadership training, and succession management.

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