First on CNN: Tillerson asks staff in survey: What should State Department stop doing?

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Story highlights

  • The survey is going out as the agency looks at cuts of up to 31%
  • The questionnaire is part of a listening tour being conducted at the department

Washington (CNN)Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has launched a survey of his agency, obtained by CNN, in the lead up to a restructuring that's expected to include substantial staff and budget cuts.

The online questionnaire, being sent to all staff at the State Department and Agency for International Development, asks for their help in building a "word cloud" to characterize the department's current mission and what it should be over the next 20 years.
The questions, which include a spattering of corporate buzz words, ask employees to weigh in on everything from the clarity of their chain of command to their job satisfaction. The focus seems to be on how to streamline the country's oldest Cabinet agency, clarify its mission and make it more efficient.
The agency is expected to shed about 2,000 jobs in the restructuring process, State Department officials told CNN, but plans to do so over the next two and a half years through attrition rather than layoffs or buyouts.
"It is true that some jobs will not be filled as the (reorganization) proceeds," one official said. "But the secretary knows that some positions are not going to change regardless of any results in any reorganization."
The official pointed specifically to the fact that assistant secretary positions for certain regional bureaus are likely to be filled in the coming months.
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The survey is part of a "listening tour" being conducted by Insigniam, a management consulting firm co-founded by Nathan Owen Rosenberg, who served with Tillerson on the Boy Scouts board of directors in 2011. Insigniam's role was first reported by CBS.
A State Department spokesman said that "of the proposals reviewed, Insigniam's was the most cost-effective for the expertise, scope and timeline needed, including its ability to survey and provide analysis of large organizations."
Though anonymous, the survey asks a series of questions that reveal details about the identities of responders, including what bureau they work in and their recent accomplishments.
Survey questions include:
· In the past 12 months, have you made a change to a process or approach that has positively impacted a client/customer's experience, or increased the value they received from working with your unit?
· What should the department stop doing?
· To get things done, how often do you apply workarounds for duplicative, overly tedious and/or unnecessarily complicated processes?
The last question asks simply: "Is there anything else you would like to tell Secretary Tillerson?" The form letter's query comes after Tilerson didn't take questions in person from staff after delivering remarks to them the day before.
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Many career diplomats say the agency could use some streamlining. While some voiced optimism that the workforce could end up more efficient, several expressed anxiety about the coming changes, the lack of clarity offered by Tillerson and his staff, and the fear that the reforms will weaken the Foreign Service.
Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said in a statement to CNN that her organization "believes that it's important to seize the opportunities presented by this transition to make the Foreign Service stronger as a key instrument of American global leadership."
"We now have an opportunity to streamline and create the conditions for a more effective and focused American foreign policy," she continued. "However, we must take care during such reorganizing to preserve core diplomatic capability."
In his address to staff Wednesday, Tillerson touched on the survey and restructuring toward the close, telling staff their job satisfaction would be higher after the cuts, which could be as high as 31%.
"I know change like this is really stressful for a lot of people," said Tillerson. "I can promise you that when this is all done, you're going to have a much more satisfying, fulfilling career, because you're going to feel better about what you're doing because of the impact of what you are doing."