June 14, 2001Federal agencies have gained little ground in the effort to manage for results, according to a survey of managers and supervisors conducted by the General Accounting Office. Many agencies are still not prepared to use a results-based approach to running their operations, GAO said in its report, "Managing for Results: Federal Managers' Views on Key Management Issues Vary Widely Across Agencies" (GAO-01-592). For the report, GAO surveyed managers at each of the largest 28 federal agencies about the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act. Under the Results Act, agencies are required to write strategic plans and prepare annual performance plans and performance reports. "The responses of many managers in the 28 agencies did not indicate a strong perception that their agencies' top leadership demonstrated a strong commitment to achieving results," GAO said. GAO completed a similar study in 1997, and last October released a study focusing on the governmentwide results of its latest survey. According to GAO, crafting a high-performing organization requires time and commitment, along with sustained attention from top leaders. In its study, GAO found that only four of the 28 agencies surveyed had reached a level where two-thirds of managers said top agency officials were committed to managing for results. "Progress in fostering such leadership has stagnated," GAO found. The use of recognition as a motivating incentive has also not been widely used in the federal government, GAO found, reducing the opportunity to reinforce personal accountability for high performance. "Agencies need to create organizational cultures that involve employees and empower them to improve operational and program performance while ensuring accountability and fairness for those employees," GAO said. Giving managers decision-making power and, in turn, making them accountable for results, is critical to results-based management, GAO said. At 22 of the 28 agencies, more than half of the managers said they were accountable for results. But fewer managers said they had the power to make decisions. At 10 of the 28 agencies, one-third or less of the managers surveyed said they had decision-making authority. According to the report, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Health Care Financing Administration, the Forest Service, the Interior and State departments, and the Internal Revenue Service all ranked at the bottom of the survey. Only seven of the 28 agencies found 50 percent or more of surveyed managers using performance information in setting program priorities, allocating resources, adopting new approaches, coordinating efforts or setting job expectations for their employees. In his written response to GAO's findings, Sean O'Keefe, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said he found the drop in the use of performance information disappointing. "While many agencies have made substantial progress implementing the Government Performance and Results Act, many are still going through the motions," O'Keefe wrote. "GPRA has not been fully harnessed to improve management and program performance." While it did not include recommendations in its report, GAO said later reports would identify areas for agencies to take specific actions in becoming high-performing organizations.
June 14, 2001