Reorganizing and the U.S. Coast Guard : a study in decision-making
Author(s)Springer, Curtis A. (Curtis Alan), 1958-
Reorganizing and the United States Coast Guard : a study in decision-making
Sloan School of Management.
John Van Maanen.
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The trend within organizations over the last fifteen years has been to decentralize, empower subordinates, and eliminate management layers. This has sometimes been called the "new" organization. Since 1986, the Coast Guard has conducted three reorganizations. Yet, the result of these reorganizations has been greater centralization, less empowerment for District Commanders, and an additional layer of management at Coast Guard Headquarters. This thesis explores why the Coast Guard-widely considered to be one of the "best" federal agencies-has bucked these "new" organization trends. The focus on this thesis is on the decision-making process. I examine two decisions to evaluate their success: (1) shifting support responsibilities from the field commander to a regional support and logistics command, and (2), adding a layer of management at Coast Guard Headquarters. Finally, I offer seven broad recommendations for how the Coast Guard should conduct its next reorganization effort. I offer three possible explanations for the Coast Guard's increased centralization. First, the Coast Guard is less centralized than recent reorganizations may indicate. Second, to me~t dramatic budgetary reductions, the Coast Guard must reduce the number of personnel due to the relatively high percentage of its operating budget dedicated to personnel-related expenses. The Coast Guard used centralization and consolidations to achieve this. Third, the Coast Guard unlike a private sector organization-is forced to look primarily at efficiency measures when faced with budgetary difficulties. The Coast Guard has used centralization as a means to become more efficient. The Coast Guard added a layer of management at Headquarters in an effort to force decision-making lower within the Headquarters organizational structure. Often, adding a layer of management is viewed as forcing decision-making higher within an organization. The Coast Guard viewed it as means to push decision-making lower. The results of shifting support from the District Commanders to the regional support commands has been mixed. Naval, electronic, and civil engineering support delivery is widely viewed as being superior to the previous decentralized system. The decentralization approach appeared to · work better for personnel, housing, medical, and administrative support. However, it is possible that the reduced level of resources and not the organizational structure is why this latter group is not working as well under a centralized system. The current Headquarters organization can work effectively if staffs are resourced appropriately and if decision-making authority is delegated.
Thesis (M.B.A.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2000.Also available online on the DSpace at MIT websiteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 113-115).
DepartmentSloan School of Management.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.