Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Moving from Process to Practice in Performance Management

ARCHIVES
Image via Dr. Cloud/Shutterstock.com

After more than 20 years trying to measure and improve performance, federal agencies are beginning to adopt cultures of continuous improvement and have shown progress in using data to help make decisions, according to a newly released report.

The report found that most of the progress is taking place at top agency levels, but has not filtered down to the program level, where greater support from leadership is needed. In addition, collaboration with Congress remains a sticking point.

These and other findings are based on interviews by the Partnership for Public Service and Grant Thornton with more than 50 Performance Improvement Officers (PIO), the agency officials charged with helping organizations measure and improve results, focus groups, and a survey to gauge the success of performance management efforts.

The report, Taking Measure: Moving from Process to Practice in Performance Management, showed PIOs think recent changes have produced meaningful advancement. They said that focusing on a few top goals, as required by the Government Performance and Results Act Modernization Act of 2010 has renewed enthusiasm for measuring performance, and that quarterly reviews required by the new law have been a huge step forward, bringing top leaders into the conversation about performance goals, progress and obstacles.

The 2010 law also required the establishment of agency chief operating officers and the PIOs, and gave them important performance responsibilities. This requirement has given greater visibility to senior agency leaders, who are actively contributing to the necessary cultural transformation at agencies, according to those interviewed. The leadership commitment is making a big difference, even though more needs to be done.

Of course, not all is going perfectly. We found that despite agencies collecting a great deal of data about performance, the data are not being used at all levels to help make decisions. This finding is consistent with a recent Government Accountability Office report, which said performance information being produced could be more accessible, available, understandable and relevant. The amount of data can sometimes be overwhelming. Agencies aren’t communicating as well as they could be about what the data shows.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle facing agencies is getting the skills needed to define measures and collect and analyze data in a meaningful way. The current climate of flat pay, no bonuses and budget cuts makes solving this problematic.

It would not be responsible just to identify problems and celebrate progress, without also making practical recommendations for solving them. The following are some of the recommendations from the report:

  • Agency leaders must make adoption of a performance culture a priority and redouble efforts to motivate agency units to use available data to improve performance and hold themselves accountable.
  • Chief operating officers should broaden the adoption of regular, data-driven meetings and encourage performance leaders in subcomponents to learn from performance measures and management practices used by others.
  • Agencies should establish priority goals that involve more than one agency unit as a way to increase collaboration, provide opportunities to learn and achieve better results.
  • The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should continue investing in program evaluation activities that enhance understanding of performance and program outcomes, and improve how those efforts are connected to performance management. Better coordination among those who set goals and measure performance, and those who lead evaluation initiatives, would accelerate the adoption of best practices.
  • OMB should, in collaboration with the Performance Improvement Council and the Office of Personnel Management, develop and advance a set of core competencies for staff that couples business knowledge with analytical ability and stresses the importance of performance measurement and data analytics to managing program performance and driving improvement.

Engagement with Congress is one of the most glaring gaps in current performance management efforts, and one that’s persisted for many years.

In the survey responses, PIOs acknowledged that federal agencies’ outreach to Congress on performance is virtually nonexistent. Both Congress and agencies are missing an opportunity to accelerate improvements in program performance. PIOs can play an important role in crafting reports that meet the needs of legislators and facilitate a discussion about what’s needed to drive greater results. Congress is showing an increasing appetite for this kind of conversation. The executive branch should feed it.

The 2010 law has given new life to performance management efforts at the federal level, according to PIOs. Some practical steps, including driving efforts to the bureau and program level, enhancing data analytics skill and renewing engagement with Congress, can hasten the adoption of best practices and enhance the results government achieves for its citizens.

Government management expert Robert Shea is a principal at Grant Thornton and former U.S. Office of Management and Budget leader. He also served as Counsel to the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. For a copy of the Taking Measure: Moving from Process to Practice in Performance Management report, go to www.ourpublicservice.org. Join the conversation on twitter at #takingmeasure. 

Image via Dr. Cloud/Shutterstock.com

Robert Shea is a Principal in Grant Thornton’s Global Public Sector Practice. He worked at the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as Associate Director for Administration and Government Performance. Before joining OMB, Robert served as Counsel to the United States Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs where, in addition to general oversight of Executive Branch management, he advised Committee leadership on the status of implementation of the U.S. statutory framework for performance-based government, including the Government Performance and Results Act and the Chief Financial Officers Act. He was Legislative Director for Congressman Pete Sessions (TX) from 1997 to 1999, where he organized the Results Caucus, a group of Members of Congress dedicated to results-based management and solving many of the government’s major management problems. Robert was a Professional Staff Member with the House Committee on Government Reform from 1995 through 1996. There he had responsibility for examining the economy and efficiency of government programs, and acted as liaison with the government’s Inspectors General. Robert holds a Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Government from Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.