Spring has come to the White House.

Spring has come to the White House. Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

How to Respond to the President’s Management Agenda

Agencies should take a deliberate approach to this new opportunity.

With change comes opportunity. The White House Office of Management and Budget’s recent release of President Trump’s management agenda calls for modernizing government through technology, data, and the workforce. As such, it aligns the stars to finally make efficiency and effectiveness real.

The agenda identifies lead and supporting agencies for each of the 14 Cross Agency Performance Goals. While it’s not yet clear what all the reform initiatives will be or whether Congress will adopt various reforms in the Trump administration’s proposed FY19 budget, agency leaders can begin transforming their operations immediately.  

Here’s how leaders should begin:

Combine and Plan. Take the OMB guidance, requirements, and input along with recommendations from the CXO advisory councils, inspectors general, the Government Accountability Office and agency strategic and performance plans, and develop a clear implementation plan and timeline. Identify short term (fiscal year), mid-term (duration of the Trump administration), and long-term (beyond the administration) objectives. Put someone in charge and begin. The plan should have goals, strategies and actions that will be executed immediately, with a phased and integrated approach. Identify risks and resources, key stakeholders and how the plan integrates with the president’s management agenda. Identify both progress and outcome measures. Resource the plan appropriately—don’t give it short shrift with the wrong skills, insufficient bench strength, or lack of dedication. Make sure to include a strong change management agenda.

Reshape. Now is the time for key actions:

  • Reengineer work processes and policy, aligning your technology and workforce and reducing organizational complexity.
  • Assess program efficiency and effectiveness and make changes.
  • Take advantage of stronger budgets and the Modernization Act fund to create efficiencies with your legacy systems or use the proposed workforce investment fund to develop needed skills and capacity.

Invest now for a clearly-articulated return on investment later. Reshaping is the granular work of reform that is easily overlooked and should be the primary function of every agency chief operating officer.

Make Difficult and Quick Decisions. Any Administration goes buy in the blink of an eye. Move now to make things happen, acquire the resources, make quick decisions, manage intently, and make it happen so it has staying power. Line up authorities or advisory groups early, and proactively help Congress prepare for legislative action as necessary. Engaging Congress is critical for some initiatives.

Support and Engage. Support the work of the lead agencies, get involved, contribute, and make a meaningful and measurable difference. If you have an expertise or a contribution to make, offer it. The administration needs champions of change throughout government to help make things happen and assist adoption.

Share. When you have created an efficient and effective practice or structure, share it with others. Publish articles, write white papers, speak at conferences, and invite others in to see. If you have produced a new technology, procurement practice, grant process, etc., share it with other agencies so they may adopt similar practices. In fact, it would be wonderful if OMB, the General Services Administration or the Office of Personnel Management would create a repository of verified efficiency and effectiveness actions with a mechanism for sharing.

Measure and Report. Agencies must measure and report efficiency and effectiveness gains at a detailed level to demonstrate true success. This should go beyond the traditional Performance.gov high level report. The American people, Congress, and other stakeholders have a right to know, and strong outcomes allow other agencies to discover opportunities for change. Report on specific effectiveness measures, efficiency gains, cost savings, performance or quality gains, workload changes, and workforce practices.

Manage the Silent Killers of Reform. In my November 2017 column on the Top 10 Silent Killers of Government Reform, I outlined 10 reform killers related to politics, capacity, focus, workforce, narrow interpretations, accountability, communications, data, culture, and procurement. It’s worth another review to ensure you don’t fall into these traps and end up with less than desirable outcomes.

Conduct Contests. Engage employees by conducting innovation contests for efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. Offer substantial worthwhile prizes (say $10,000 or more) for the best selected and implemented ideas. Some of the best ideas may come from those on the front lines.

Historically too many government efficiency and effectiveness initiatives waste time and money and see too little progress before an administration changes and everything shifts in a new direction. Let’s take this one very seriously and move forward deliberately, with solid judgement, the right resources, reduced barriers, and engaged leaders and staff.

Steve Goodrich is the CEO of the Center for Organizational Excellence and author of Transforming Government from Congress to the Cubicle. He can be reached at sgoodrich@center4oe.com.

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