Topic 1: Performance Improvement and Analysis

Since the enactment of the Government Performance and Results Act in 1993, all agencies now have strategic plans and performance measures supported by an infrastructure of staff and processes build to collect and deliver performance data.  The Obama Administration took office promising to appoint a “chief performance officer” to improve performance.

Progress to Date. President Obama appointed Jeffrey Zients to the role of deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and as his chief performance officer.  Budget guidance, OMB memoranda to the heads of agencies, personnel appointments, and public statements thus far indicate that the Obama administration has set a strategy for performance improvement that focuses upon three key elements: leadership in improving performance; setting  priorities among goals, and demonstrated use of performance data.

Key Challenges to Improving Performance. Six sets of challenges face the Obama administration’s promise of performance improvements:

  • Sustaining performance leadership committed to driving performance improvement.
  • Mitigating the downsides of focusing on a limited set of high-priority performance goals.
  • Forging cross-agency collaboration and coordination on cross-cutting policy issues.
  • Integrating performance data into agency budget submissions
  • Ensuring coordination within OMB between its different components
  • Effectively engaging Congress in the design and use of a federal performance framework.

Research Questions Based on Forum Discussions. Following are highlights of some of the research questions developed:

  • What can federal agency managers learn from the “performance-stat” movement in cities and states that can be applied at the federal level?
  • What are the success factors in implementing a performance management system?
  • What factors shape the use of performance information?
  • How will the introduction of high-priority goals engage federal agency leaders in the use of performance information?
  • How should government leaders set priority goals, demonstrate progress, and explain performance trends?
  • How best should public managers engage the public, the legislature, and outside experts to develop performance processes that improve results?

(Note:  the background discussion paper for this topic was prepared by Kathryn Newcomer, George Washington University)


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