Obama Administration Looks to 'Lock in Progress' on Management Goals

OMB Director Shaun Donovan sent agency heads a memo April 6 to get the ball rolling on setting goals. OMB Director Shaun Donovan sent agency heads a memo April 6 to get the ball rolling on setting goals. Susan Walsh/AP

The end of the Obama administration is in sight for leaders of the Office of Management and Budget, who have instructed agencies to prepare for designating cross-agency priority goals for Obama’s final year.

Budget Director Shaun Donovan on April 6 sent a memo to all agency heads outlining a schedule for working with the Executive Office of the President and with Congress through their legislative staffs to pick the goals while “improving the impact of federal programs.” In the final year, he said, “it will be more important than ever for the senior leadership team to focus on implementation to lock in progress on administration priority issues.”

For fiscal 2015, the administration picked 15 cross-agency goals in broad areas such as climate change and cybersecurity, and it worked with Congress to set data-driven performance measures administered by chief operating officers and designated goal leaders. Donovan’s memo alluded to past progress toward goals such as faster approval of disaster loans for families in need, reducing veterans' homelessness, increasing renewable energy and reducing crime on Native American reservations.

In laying out the schedule between May and next February’s budget release, Donovan asked each agency to “use this opportunity to bring together career executives, managers, front line employees and service providers to accelerate progress on those areas that will have the greatest impact for the American public.”

On Tuesday, Deputy Director for Management Beth Cobert followed up with a blog post, in which she compared agency efforts favorably with what she saw when she worked for McKinsey & Co. “Over the course of my career, in sectors as diverse as mobile telecom, the leisure industry and financial services, I’ve seen how efforts to streamline and re-design processes and put new technologies to work can have genuine impact on improved service delivery and customer service – and the bottom line,” Cobert wrote. “Since joining government for the first time a year and a half ago, it is clear that the private sector does not have the monopoly on using these approaches to drive better results.”

She singled out two agencies as examples of successful federal program management in support of broader priority goals.

The State Department’s Excellence in Consular Service Delivery agency priority goal measures the time required to process passport applications for U.S. citizens and appointment wait times for nonimmigrant visa applicants. In 2014 State exceeded the target of ensuring that 80 percent of nonimmigrant visa applicants were interviewed within three weeks of requesting an appointment.

And, Cobert added, the Social Security Administration set a goal of improving customer experiences and reducing interview backlogs by expanding access to video technology. After pilot programs, SSA now conducts 28 percent of hearings by video, up 170,000 over last year’s number.

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