For Immediate Release: Jul 25, 2019
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Pizza Party for Lean Management Video Winners
Washington, DC — Amid reports of cratering morale, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants its employees to shoot videos of interactions with their managers, according to an announcement posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Creators of the three videos judged the best by EPA’s “Office of Continuous Improvement” win an officially sponsored pizza party, an agency-wide screening, and possible cash award.
In an all-employee email sent yesterday, Acting Deputy Administrator Henry Darwin urged employees to record meetings (called “huddles”) with managers and submit them in a “Huddle Contest” running through mid-August. His message declares that:
“The Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI) wants to see EPA huddles immortalized by having as many huddles videotaped as possible to bolster ELMS [EPA Lean Management System] training resources and to help share the amazing work…”
Employees are encouraged to submit their videos “to help illustrate how huddles are conducted and to demonstrate the usefulness of huddles in day-to-day operations.”
“EPA’s enthusiasm for smartphone videos is just more fiddling while Rome burns,” stated PEER Science Policy Director Kyla Bennett, a scientist and attorney formerly with EPA, noting that the unironically named Office of Continuous Improvement is about streamlining process, not achieving substantive outputs. “To distract from the collapse of EPA’s enforcement, science, and regulatory programs, agency leadership is conducting bureaucratic Romper Room games.”
Videotaping internal meetings appears at odds with restrictions imposed by an increasingly secretive EPA. EPA employees have been discouraged from bringing smartphones to meetings, drafting meeting notes, and creating paper trails supporting agency actions. EPA is also proposing to put release of records requested under the Freedom of Information Act exclusively in the control of its political appointees.
“The extent of internal self-censorship in today’s EPA is at an all-time high,” added Bennett, pointing to examples of EPA specialists being forbidden from raising concerns or disclosing potential violations of pollution control laws. “If employee videos revealed what is really going on inside EPA, they would never be allowed to see the light of day.”