U.S. President Barack Obama, right, walks with former president George W. Bush.

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, walks with former president George W. Bush. Evan Vucci/AP

Yes, Obama's Management Agenda Is Different From George W. Bush's

Current goal is to drive results by focusing on strategic objectives, not narrower programs, OMB performance officer says.

President Obama’s second-term management agenda is more focused on improving government’s proactive effectiveness for businesses and taxpayers compared with his first-term’s emphasis on curbing waste and fraud, an Office of Management and Budget official said Tuesday.

The current White House agenda also contrasts with that of the George W. Bush administration, said Lisa Danzig, OMB’s associate director for performance and personnel management. She portrayed the Bush-era Program Assessment Rating Tool as “top-down and program-level, only a microcosm of performance not deeply infiltrated into agencies.” By contrast, today’s “building blocks” of goals, cross-agency goals and metrics available since passage of the 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, Danzig added, make the Obama approach “more focused on broad strategic objectives.”

Danzig was a keynote speaker at the two-day Government Performance summit in Washington organized jointly by the private Performance Institute think tank and the Association of Government Accountants to flesh out how agencies go about “Decoding the Financial and Performance Puzzle.”

The administration’s scheduling of two- and four-year goals and agency strategic plans means that the management agenda is “now aligned with the political” timetable, said Danzig, a former performance officer at the Housing and Urban Development Department. “Senior agency leaders are typically focused on communications, budgets and legislation when they should focus on driving results through improved implementation,” she said, describing executive goal- and-metric review meetings under the new approach as “focused on facts, not typical policy discussion.”

Agencies have until May 17, she added, to hand in their self-assessments on performance toward goals, which will “inform the fiscal 2016 budget.”

As examples of the government’s “big, audacious results” proven possible in the past, Danzig cited the decades-long declines in highway deaths, babies born with AIDS, cigarette smoking and reliance on paper rather than electronics to distribute government benefits. “These problems seemed insurmountable, but the metrics and implementation were done in a relatively short period,” she said, noting HUD’s current goal of ending homelessness as a prospective future success.

“Agencies have a tendency to think about what we can control, so they set up a website and stop there,” Danzig said. “But it is much more powerful to set a goal that is outcomes-based.” Too often in the past, data gathering was “random counting,” she added, likening it to the old joke about a man who lost his keys in a certain area, but looked for them in another area because the lighting was better.

The tools OMB is pressing to foment progress include accelerated structural permitting of the type used after the 2012 Hurricane Sandy in the multi-agency effort to reinforce New York State’s Tappan Zee Bridge, which was accomplished in a year instead of the typical three to five, she said. Data from the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is being analyzed in “more granular” detail at OMB, and a dozen more agencies recently signed up for a talent-sharing Web portal in which managers can recruit qualified colleagues from elsewhere in their agency to perform special tasks, Danzig said.

In a separate session, Jon Desenberg, the Performance Institute’s policy director, said “too many of agency performance reports and measures are frozen in time. The new focus is on reviewing and changing, from the static to the dynamic,” he said. “In 10 years, we’d like to see a transformation to a workforce familiar with analytics and a government tapping into those competencies and skill sets.”

Desenberg said he is puzzled that, “with all the fear and shaming that agencies hear from Capitol Hill, no one in Congress appears to want to talk about GPRA.”

Agencies seeking to discuss performance candidly will require a thick skin, speakers agreed, with Desenberg observing that some managers have banned staff reports that are all success stories, even though “no one wants to be seen as the problem person” at meetings.

Eric Benner, performance director in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said he hears whispers from employees saying, “Just get rid of the measures and let us do our job,” and that creating measures is too often done in a “kneejerk” way. But “there is not universal agreement on the best measures” in nuclear safety, be it the number of inspections or the amount of resources committed, he noted. “Performance conversations should be informative, not punitive,” and leadership plays a crucial role in avoiding looking at someone’s struggle to tackle a problem in isolation from external pressures.

Danzig quoted New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton’s dictum that no one in his department “got in trouble if the crime rate went up, but they got in trouble if they didn’t know why it went up and didn’t have a plan to address it.” She recommended that agencies struggling to measure performance not “let the perfect be the enemy of the good” and “celebrate success.” 

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.