Next Steps Toward Better Results

By John Kamensky

August 1, 2001

S ome innovations have a lengthy gestation period. In 1989, the British created a new type of agency called "Next Steps" agencies because they were the next step in the British government's reform process. In 1996, Vice President Al Gore created performance-based organizations based on the Next Steps model. And in 2001, President Bush announced his first results-based organization-the State Department's Foreign Buildings Operation office.

While the name seems to morph, the concept remains fairly stable:

Some Lessons Learned
The lesson: Take the time to do it right from the start. It will save grief later. The lesson: Get agencies to make some specific performance commitments up front, along with their requests for flexibilities. The lesson: Focus conversions on agency functions that don't have a political head, or make sure the White House personnel office agrees in advance to converting the top job from a political to a term contract position. This is generally easier if the position is vacant. The lesson: Push for maximum flexibilities, such as those awarded to the Federal Aviation Administration, but also get strong performance commitments upfront to counter the voices of the central management conformists. The lesson: Work with government oversight committees on a strategy that addresses their concerns before sending legislation to the authorizing committees. And work with authorizing committees in the drafting stage, not after the tortuous interagency review process. The lesson: Moving quickly, especially in developing a performance agreement with measurable targets, lets people know that performance-based management really is a different ballgame.

Is It Worth It?

The United Kingdom was able to convert about 150 agencies or functions into Next Steps agencies. And in the past dozen years, dramatic improvements have been made in performance and accountability. In the early years, cost savings were claimed, but the real difference has been in achieving better results.

Results-based organizations aren't for everyone. The British found the best candidates were those with clear missions and measurable results-and not necessarily entire agencies. In our government, examples with British parallels include the U.S. Mint, the National Park Service and the Passport Office. If the Bush administration pursues the results-based organization concept, it probably will easily find 100 to 150 likely candidates.


John Kamensky is a senior fellow with the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government. He also is director of the managing for results practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. He formerly served as deputy director of the National Partnership for Reinventing Government. He can be reached at john.kamensky@us.pwcglobal.com.

By John Kamensky

August 1, 2001

http://www.govexec.com/magazine/magazine-management/2001/08/next-steps-toward-better-results/9570/