OPM expects more agencies to vie for president’s management award

The deadline to apply for the president's top prize for quality management is fast approaching, and officials at the Office of Personnel Management hope the program's shorter application form and new design will encourage more agencies to participate this year.

"We are seeing a broader level of participation; agencies that haven't participated in the past are applying," said Glenda Haendschke, program manager for the President's Quality Award program at OPM. "I think the change is good."

Although most agencies submit their applications for the award to OPM the day before the due date, OPM expects more agencies to participate this year because of an unusually large number of inquiries. The deadline for submitting applications is Aug. 5, and OPM will honor the winners at an awards ceremony in October.

The President's Quality Award program has honored federal organizations with exemplary records in quality management and customer service since 1988. The program was modeled on the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which is presented annually to high-performing businesses in the private sector.

OPM recently redesigned the award criteria to reflect the president's management agenda. According to the President's Quality Award Web site, the awards are intended to promote a citizen-centered, market-based and results-oriented government. The president's agenda, unveiled last summer, directs agencies to achieve results in five areas: human capital management, competitive sourcing, financial management, e-government and performance-based budgeting. Agencies can compete in all or just one of those areas, and will be judged on criteria that emphasize results, best practices for other organizations, and long-term solutions.

Before OPM redesigned the program, applicants were expected to address 19 criteria in fewer than 50 pages, or 60 pages for organizations with more than 20,000 employees. The 2001 packet of instructions alone was 102 pages long, and there was a lengthy review process. Under the old process, agencies were required to submit their applications in October, and it took OPM nearly four months to review the submissions. This year, the application forms are only 10 pages long, and OPM expects to complete all of the reviews in about a month.

Last March, the Bush administration considered cancelling the 2001 awards and eliminating the program altogether. But officials at OPM made a last-minute decision to continue the awards after finding out how much time agencies had already devoted to their 2001 applications. OPM said at the time that it would review the criteria for the 2002 awards and consider "new approaches to recognize quality achievements, particularly those that focus on new uses of technology, consistent with the Bush administration's management priorities." In February, OPM released a memo explaining the program's new criteria.

Some previous applicants initially questioned the changes, but most seem satisfied with the program now, Haendschke said.

"A lot of people who had participated in the program in the past were strong Baldridge believers, but…essentially the presidential management agenda is very much in line with the Baldridge program, so we worked with them to understand how they could use their experience to apply this year," Haendschke said.

OPM has also scrapped a restriction on the number of awards given out this year and eliminated runner-up honors for quality improvement and merit.

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