“They [DHA employees] are all surprised, and profoundly grateful, that a government organization would invest in their employees by offering this curriculum. It has so much applicability to their personal lives that most people start by using the tools at home, and they can’t believe that we are doing this for them. I share that I think that if they are doing well, and feel good about themselves and what they’re doing, that also benefits the organization.”
–Ann Edwards, Director of the Department of Human Assistance, Sacramento, CA
The Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance (DHA) oversees a broad spectrum of programs and services, all designed to transition people from public assistance to independence and self-sufficiency. With 12 locations, the department offers a range of programs to their community, including employment services, housing, health care, transportation, homeless services, education, and childcare assistance. Constantly committed to their core purpose of improving lives, Sacramento DHA serves an average of over 400,000 community members per month and operates with a budget of over $700M.
The department, which consists of more than 2,000 employees, two deputy directors, and seven division managers, is led by Director of Human Assistance, Ann Edwards. With over 20 years’ experience in health and human services, Edwards was appointed to the position in 2014, after serving as the Director of Social Services for Solano County.
When Edwards first joined the organization, she made several observations about the current state of the culture. “Growing the culture has been a challenge, but a challenge worth taking. When I first got here, one of the things I noticed is that all of the programs we administer are very rules driven. There are rigid rules around every single program we offer, and, as a result of that, the culture within the organization was rigid and rules driven.” Edwards’ observations would later be confirmed in the findings of a culture survey that was administered to a large portion of the department.
Knowing the importance organizational culture has on outcomes, Edwards began to share her vision of alignment within the department. This shift in mindset, however, did not come easily to the rest of the team. Edwards recalled, “I felt like a lone soldier trying to make this change. People thought I was crazy – focusing on how we treat each other rather than our performance metrics. I don’t ignore the performance, but I am a firm believer that if we get these other things right, then the performance will be even better.”
Edwards also notes that it was very important that she and the executive team, comprised of 10 members, were in alignment and consistent in their mission. Shortly after she arrived, Edwards recalls that the misalignment between them became evident. Program managers – who report up to members of the executive team – were constantly challenged that the executive group was not on the same page.
Edwards was first introduced to The Pacific Institute® (TPI) through Terrie Porter, Sacramento’s Director of the Department of Child Support Services, who was in the process of implementing TPI’s mindsetting curriculum – Investment In Excellence® (IIE®) – within her department. Edwards attended the workshop with Porter’s employees and recollects her initial reactions about experiencing the program. “I fell in love instantly. I have a master’s degree in counseling, and I am a licensed marriage and family therapist, so I have had a lot of training in these kinds of things. But one of the things that struck me about this – very often you go to a training, and you leave, and you are pumped up and excited, and then you get back home, or to the office, and you’re not sure what to do. What I loved about IIE®, is there are concrete tools that can be used immediately, and I think that makes all the difference in the world. You can use the tools or not, and I choose to use them. Most trainings don’t offer that.”