Monday, March 2, 2009


The Central Coast Substance Abuse Center (CCSAC) is an educational facility in every sense of the word. Many of the clients (students) that enter the programs available by the agency are enrolled on a voluntary basis. Many are court ordered. Either way, the lessons learned inside the classrooms and offices of the agency literally become a matter of life and death for many. The purpose of my observations and presentation will be to answer the question of whether the CCSAC is in need of organizational development and what specific conflicts are causing the problems. I will need to identify the volume of the problem and outline a specific task with a specific time line as an intervention. I would make to make it so. As an educational leader/adviser, it is my responsibility to have an accurate sense of what the emotional pulse is of the members of this agency and be capable of communicating reachable goals through the process of group discussions and careful observation. This process needs step-by-step instructions for the agency to follow.

The agency is unique in that from a client standpoint, finding solutions to problems is approached through assessment, counseling, education and process groups. The process of healing from the ravages of substance abuse require a very proactive stance by the staff and client yet it is very important to remain sensitive to individual needs and feelings. The process of alternating between individual sessions and group sessions does create a reasonable balance of activities with 85% of the clients reporting back that their experience was a positive one. The staff on the other hand has no such schedule for their education and growth. They are limited to monthly departmental meetings of one hour and quarterly workshop sessions that utilize a one-size fits all approach to training. The workshop sessions often do not meet the needs of specific departments in the agency and are widely accepted as a "day off to goof around".

The irony is that what the agency prescribes for its clients is more effective in many ways than what it prescribes for its staff. The clients will hopefully learn important information that they can use in their day-to-day lives. The staff tends to be on their own, receiving their educations from formal schooling, accumulating college credits and applying their education to better their job advancement potential. This may not be what is best for on-the-job needs for development. This scenario also is reflective of what I witness in different school districts for all ages and subjects. As staff, once you are there, the majority of educational opportunities exist only for the clients or students. Professional development and any meaningful group-think process is very limited, especially with the budget crisis that is present.

An equally serious problem within the CCSAC is that communications are limited to a need-to-know basis with the decision of need resting in the hands of supervisory personnel. There is little transparency in how the operation is run and the one-way, top-down model of management is the standard operating procedure. There is conversation, but seldom does there appear to be change. The change that is incorporated into the agency primarily occurs on an individual basis, within a subculture that has developed to continue operations and allow for growth and learning despite obstacles present in management. This of course only benefits those privy to the underground network of players that make it possible. This network also plays a part in the eventual shift of consciousness that occasionally reaches the upper echelon of management.

The current state of organizational learning must be tied to the informal subculture of learning that exists within the agency. There is learning, it is shared but it is not shared equally, the client may or may not benefit from the learning and the agency often only accepts lessons learned long after they have already been informally initiated. The prognosis at this point is that there is an absolute need for a systematic and deliberate effort for management to streamline the process by which its staff gives and receives input for operational matters and personal staff needs. There is a distinct lag in the time that a problem arises and is addressed.

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